TORONTO – The former owner of the Vancouver Canucks will have to testify live via video conferencing about the infamous on-ice attack from behind that ended the pro career of rookie hockey player Steve Moore a decade ago, an Ontario court decided on Monday.
In his 23-page decision, Master Ronald Dash ruled John McCaw Jr. has relevant evidence to offer when Moore’s lawsuit gets to trial, slated to start in September.
“(McCaw) was the person at the top of the organization and ultimately responsible for the actions of management and for either setting the corporate culture of the organization or delegating the responsibility to others,” Dash wrote.
Moore is suing Todd Bertuzzi, who delivered the horrific from-behind blow, and the NHL’s Canucks for $38 million.
McCaw had argued the Ontario court had no right to order him to testify and denied having material evidence to offer anyway.
Dash, a case-management master with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, disagreed on both counts.
What McCaw knew beforehand about possible retaliation against Moore for an incident in which he had checked the Canucks’ captain is directly relevant to the proceedings, Dash found.
“Did (McCaw) encourage retribution against Moore?” Dash wrote.
“Alternatively, did he take steps to ‘turn down the temperature’ by directing management to take steps to prevent retaliation?”
Because McCaw is an American citizen based in Seattle, it will now be up to a court in Washington to give effect to Dash’s order and compel him to testify via video before the jury.
Lawyer Tim Danson, who is acting for Moore and his parents Jack and Anna Moore, was pleased with the ruling.
Danson has suggested that McCaw fostered an organizational culture that endorsed Bertuzzi’s attack—at least implicitly—in part because hockey violence helped draw paying fans.
“Holding billionaire owners of NHL teams accountable for the corporate culture they set and for what happens under their watch is a very important issue,” Danson said.
The notorious incident occurred March 8, 2004, when Bertuzzi hit Moore from behind, sending the hapless Colorado Avalanche player crashing face-first to the ice.
Moore essentially alleges the Canucks had put a “bounty” on his head following his check that left their captain Markus Naslund injured.
Following the Naslund incident, Bertuzzi and other Vancouver players made widely reported remarks suggesting retribution was in the offing against Moore.
Bertuzzi was the player who delivered that payback, the lawsuit alleges.
He would later plead guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm for the hit, which left Moore concussed and with fractured vertebrae. Bertuzzi was sentenced in 2006 to one year probation and 80 hours of community service.
Danson had said it would be unacceptable for the billionaire McCaw to avoid testifying while Moore still struggles to get his life back in track.
Dash ordered McCaw to pay $15,000 in costs to Moore, but Moore will have to foot the bill—at least initially—for McCaw’s video conferencing.