Colorado Avalanche, A Look Back at Steve Moore

Feb 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; The NHL logo on display in a game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks in the second period during a Stadium Series hockey game at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; The NHL logo on display in a game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks in the second period during a Stadium Series hockey game at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche’s Stevie Moore was a rookie playing on team stocked with HOF talent hit Vancouver’s Captain, igniting a series of events that included fights, a sucker punch, court cases and a hard look at Hockey’s Code and violence in sports.

On March 8, 2004 Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore  was skating up ice in the third period when he felt Todd Bertuzzi Vancouver Canucks tug on his sleeve. What came next changed his life by maybe, the worst enforcement of Hockey’s “Code” in the NHL’s history. Moore went on to have a career of court dates. Bertuzzi went on to notoriety in Colorado but to a satisfying fifteen year career in Vancouver, Florida, Calgary, Detroit and Anaheim.

What Started It?

The confluence of events started earlier that year in Colorado on February 16, 2004 when Moore hit Vancouver’s captain Markus Naslund  with what the NHL determined to be a legal hit. Marc Crawford, then coach of the Vancouver Canucks called it a cheap shot. Naslund reaching for a puck near center ice was struck on the chin by Moore’s left elbow as he was skating by. Moore wasn’t penalized for the hit. The hit surely would have warranted a penalty in today’s NHL.

Moore, a rookie the Avalanche felt had enough promise to put on a team with Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob  Blake, Adam Foote , Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne. Those are just the ones in the Hall of Fame or likely to be in the Hall of Fame.  Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay and John Michael Liles, as well as many other long-term NHL players suited up for the 2004 Avalanche.

What Happened

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The cowardly Canucks declined to “enforce” any of the complaining they had done after Moore’s hit on Naslund on March 3rd 2004 with NHL’s commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance. However in a fight-filled blowout by the Av’s in Vancouver on March 8th Moore “answered the bell” in a fight with Matt Cooke that Moore, in all fairness won.

Not satisfied, the Canucks first sent Brad May and then Bertuzzi on the ice trying to instigate a fight with Moore. Stevie declined to  fight the larger and in Bertuzzi’s case, much larger men. Bertuzzi, allegedly on orders from Vancouver’s coach Marc Crawford, first tugged on Moore’s sleeve, then sucker punched him in the back of his head. As Moore collapsed, Bertuzzi drove his head into the ice from behind.

A melee ensued, including a declined invitation for a goalie fight from Johan Hedberg to David Aebischer. A large group of players ended up on top of Moore during the  scrum but the damage was already done.

In later testimony Bertuzzi stated coach Crawford had sent him out to punish Moore. An allegation Crawford denied and reportedly  told Bertuzzi to leave  Moore alone. I’ll leave it to the reader which one to believe.

Whatever the case, Crawford has stained the ring he acquired while coaching the Avs to the Stanley Cup finals and were it up to me his name would be removed from the Cup as it is associated with the Avalanche.

The Aftermath…

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Todd Bertuzzi received a thirteen regular season and seven playoff game suspension. The next season 2004-2005 everyone was locked out due to a labor dispute. The IIHF did uphold Bettman’s suspension, stopping Bertuzzi from taking his thuggery overseas.

Gary Bettman reinstated Bertuzzi on August 8,2005. Stating “Mr Bertuzzi had paid a very significant price for his conduct”. Mr Bettman let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?

The Canucks? They paid an unreasonable fine of $250,000.

Meanwhile Moore was left with three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion, and other injuries,requiring years at least, if not a life time of rehabilitation.

Charges were filed in British Columbia and Ontario. A lawsuit was filed first in Colorado then BC that included Bertuzzi, Crawford, the Canucks and the.Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment Company.

The finger-pointing between Crawford and Bertuzzi started immediately, resulting in a separate lawsuit. Meanwhile Bertuzzi moved the ownership of his home into his wife’s name. Who can say why a guy would do that, five weeks after he mauled Moore?

Steve Moore? He was attempting to get his life back. Suffering from what in all likelihood was post concussion syndrome, tried to regain his hockey career. To this day he hasn’t received clearance to play.

Finally in August 2014 the  lawsuit was resolved out of court  between Moore,  Bertuzzi and the Canucks without the details being revealed. Moore’s last demand was for CAD $68 million. What’s the loss of your dream worth? What’s a lifetime of headaches and neck pain worth?

The Code

One of the things I love about Hockey is its unwritten code. Cody McLeod knows part of the reason he’s even on the Avalanche is his willingness to “drop the gloves” to protect teammates.

What Marc Crawford instigated when he reportedly pointed to Steve Moore’s name and number during the second intermission on March 8,2004 and stated “he must pay the price” wasn’t a reflection of the code.

Once Moore fought Cooke it should have been over, period. Crawford allegedly sends Matt “Douche” Cooke, doesn’t like the results, then he sends May and finally”Tuz,” precipitating the worst case of violence perpetuated in sports I’ve ever seen.

The “Code” isn’t about revenge. It’s about having to stand up for your actions. It’s about standing up for your team. It’s about respect, earning it, keeping it.

Steve Moore Now…

I Googled Steve Moore, Stevie Moore and the only result I got was a  musician, until I added Bertuzzi. Then I received a slew of YouTube videos and other articles describing the travesty of Bertuzzi’s cowardly hit on Moore.

Next: August Free Agents for the Avs

As far as I’m concerned he deserves his anonymity. I probably could have worked a little harder and found out more about Stevie. Maybe some other time.

As Avalanche fans we need to remember Steve Moore.