TORONTO – The lawyer representing the Vancouver Canucks and their owners in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by former NHL player Steve Moore said Monday that recent allegations made against his client are scandalous and could have a prejudicial effect on the case.
Alan D’Silva was referring at a court hearing Monday to recent reports of testimony made in the discovery phase of the lawsuit that stems from the March 8, 2004 game between the Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche.
During the game, the Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi jumped the Avalanche’s Moore, punching him from behind and then falling on top of him.
Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion and facial cuts. He hasn’t played since.
One allegation in the discovery testimony that gained wide publicity came from Bertuzzi, who said that then-Canucks coach Marc Crawford pointed to Moore’s name on a roster board between the second and third periods of the night in question and said, “he must pay the price.”
Moore’s lawyer, Tim Danson, told the court that Canucks general manager, Dave Nonis, also testified about remarks by Crawford.
In his testimony last year, Nonis said he didn’t know if Crawford said anything to his team between the second and third periods of the night of the attack. But he said Canucks players Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and Mattias Ohlund later told him that the coach before the game, “pointed to a number of players and said – ‘they got to pay the price tonight.”‘
In that testimony, Nonis went on to explain that his understanding of Crawford’s remark was that Crawford meant his team had to make it “difficult for them to play. We’ve got to try to be, you know, hard on them.”
The discovery transcripts were part of Moore’s motion to amend his statement of claim from $15 million to $38 million.
The prelude to the Bertuzzi-Moore incident came at February 16th, 2004 game where Moore delivered a hit to Naslund that resulted in the Canucks’ captain suffering a concussion.
D’Silva argued the statements in the court documents filed recently are “inflammatory, scandalous and vexatious,” and will have a “prejudicial effect given the intense media attention on this case.”
“This is supposed to be a jury trial,” he said.
D’Silva said Crawford was motivating his players to act within the rules of the game. And Orca Bay Hockey, the former parent company of the Canucks, has said that at no time did the organization or its employees, including former Canucks coach Crawford, encourage or promote the Bertuzzi-Moore incident.
D’Silva also said Orca Bay had no knowledge of what went on in the dressing room.
“Why are the owners of the business – who have nothing to do with the team – being sued?” he asked.
“We plead that Orca Bay was negligent,” replied Danson, who called the incident “the worst attack in the history of professional sports”.
Master Ronald Dash, presiding at the court proceeding, answered: “I don’t know how they wouldn’t be vicariously liable,” referring to a form of secondary liability that arises from the responsibility of a superior for the acts of their subordinates.
Moore is suing Bertuzzi and Orca Bay Hockey.
The lawsuit against the Canucks and Bertuzzi deals largely with damages due to Moore’s lost income. None of the allegations in the lawsuit or the discovery examinations have been proven in court.