VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - National Hockey League star Todd Bertuzzi said his former coach shares the blame for an on-ice attack in 2004 that tarnished the league’s image, and should have to pay some of the potential damages in a civil lawsuit filed by the victim.
Coach Mark Crawford urged Bertuzzi and other members of the Vancouver Canucks to get revenge on Steve Moore for an incident during an earlier game in which the Colorado Avalanche player injured Vancouver’s captain, Markus Naslund, according to court documents.
Bertuzzi asked an Ontario court this month to add Crawford as a third-party defendant in a lawsuit by Moore seeking C$38 million ($37.3 million) in damages from Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.
In the March 8, 2004, incident in Vancouver, Bertuzzi skated up behind Moore and blindsided him with a punch to the head. They fell to the ice with other players from the Canucks and the Avalanche piling on top.
Moore suffered hairline neck fractures and a concussion and has not played professional hockey since the attack. Bertuzzi now plays for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and Crawford is head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.
The attack gained international publicity and sparked debate about the role of violence in North American hockey, where on-ice fights are almost routine, despite being against the rules.
The fights rarely lead to criminal charges, but Bertuzzi was charged by Vancouver police. He later pleaded guilty to assault and was given a conditional discharge, which left him without a criminal record.
He was also suspended briefly by the league.
Questions about Crawford’s role in the incident were raised earlier in Moore’s lawsuit, in documents quoting Bertuzzi and other players as saying the coach told them that Moore “must pay the price.”
Crawford has denied any wrongdoing.
Bertuzzi’s court filing accuses Crawford of negligence in knowing Moore might be injured in the incident, and says that under his NHL contract Bertuzzi was required as a player to follow his coach’s orders.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson