Steve Moore is taken off the ice by medical staff after he was hit by Vancouver Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi on March 8, 2004. We see Moore prone on a stretcher covered in blankets. He is surrounded by medics and support staff rolling the stretcher.

Steve Moore is taken off the ice by medical staff after he was hit by Vancouver Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi on March 8, 2004.
Photo Credit: Canadian Press/File / CHUCK STOODY

Legal battles over the dark side of hockey come to an end

Battles over a pair of devastating, violent, dangerous hockey hits ground to their inglorious legal conclusions in the past week.

Each provides a window into the sport that seems one of the few things that Canadians really get excited about.

In a way, hockey is our dirty little secret. We are famous for pardoning ourselves when someone has the temerity to bump into one of us.

Steve Moore listens to a question during a news conference in Toronto in December 2004. Moore settled his long-running lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi out of court on Tuesday. We see Moore from the chin up. He wears a slightly angry look on his lips and looks just a bit punchy.
Steve Moore listens to a question during a news conference in Toronto in December 2004. Moore settled his long-running lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi out of court on Tuesday. © Canadian Press/ADRIAN WYLD

But when it comes to hockey, all bets are off. Canadians go more than slightly nuts. You might have noticed.

Hockey is our national sport, our entry entry to the world stage. We won both Olympic gold medals–men’s and women’s–earlier this year. You might have noticed. Canadians sure hope you did.

But for all it’s beauty, the game has a dark, vicious side, one that can that can result is some serious damage.

Take the two aforementioned hits. One occurred in the National Hockey League, the other in an amateur league in Ottawa.

Very different surroundings. Same ugly cause.

Both were the result of the unwritten code of conduct that governs fighting and retaliation in hockey, at least men’s hockey, a code that left two men gravely wounded.

In the more infamous of two of the two legal cases, the lawyers for Steve Moore, once of the Colorado Avalanche, and Todd Bertuzzi, once a Vancouver Canuck, reached an out-of-court settlement Tuesday in a $68-million loss-of-wages lawsuit Moore filed after Bartuzzi stalked and sucker-punched from behind on March 8, 2004. The blow was in retaliation for a hit Moore had delivered on one of Bartuzzi’s teammates earlier in the game.

Moore went down in a heap after suffering three fractured vertebrae and a concussion. He left on a stretcher and never played another NHL game.

Bartuzzi was suspended for 17 games and went on to make millions in the NHL. He played last season with Detroit and is currently a free agent.

Todd Bertuzzi speaks to the media on the first day of training camp for the Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey Team in Vancouver in 2005. Bertuzzi is shown in right profile from the neck up. He is wearing a baseball cap and has the beginnings of a beard. His eyes are dark and his lips are slightly pursed.
Todd Bertuzzi speaks to the media on the first day of training camp for the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team in Vancouver in 2005. © AP Photo/The Canadian Press/ File/RICHARD LAM

Eight years and four days later, in the final 47 seconds of an Ottawa recreational league game on March 12, 2012, a 29-year-old PhD candidate named Gordon MacIsaac left his feet and creamed a 29-year-old personal trainer named Drew Casterson.

The collision broke some of Casterson’s teeth, scarred his face and caused a concussion that resulted in debilitating headaches.

MacIsaac denied the hit was in retaliation for something Casterson had done.

When the case went to court, the judge saw it otherwise.

Calling it “a deliberate blindside hit,” Ontario Court Justice Diane Lahaie last week sentenced MacIsaac to 18 months probation and ordered him to pay Casterson $5,000. MacIsaac was also forbidden to play or coach competitive sports during his 18 months probation.

Casterson is now falling in to debt because the injuries he suffered prevent him from working more than six hours a week. Mr. MacIsaac is headed to Calgary to work in the aerospace industry.

And it all happened in a “non-contact league.”

For some perspective on two incidents, I spoke by phone with Bruce Dowbiggin, a well-known sportswriter, author and broadcaster who lives in Calgary.

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