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March-10-2004,
Mister Jackass, Meet Mister Milquetoast...By bookiekiller.com`s RinkRat

Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi.s lockout could be starting sooner than everybody else.s, beginning Thursday morning.

He is in a jam for attacking Colorado centre Steve Moore from behind. Surely you.ve seen the tape by this time. Bertuzzi is impulsive, lacking in restraint, stupid, thin skinned, and cowardly. In short he is a jackass.

Much is being made of the post-game anger spewed across the Canuck dressing room following Moore.s hit on Canuck winger Markus Naslund February 16th in Denver. Cheap shot, no doubt, but not career ending. Canucks coach Marc Crawford blew a gasket after Moore.s hit and comments made about the lack of .respect. of younger players. Canuck winger Brad May threatened a bounty on Moore and other vague statements on the topic of revenge ended up on various sportscentres/desks/news. Those statements apparently prove premeditation.

Dah! All sound and fury etc etc. March 3d was dooms day, the Canucks playing in Denver. Sports reporters pleaded for calm, all the while drooling at the prospect of bad feelings, ill-will, and fights. Lots of fights. Makes for easy reporting, or do you already know that?

Nothing happened, except two good defensive teams shipped five goals apiece in a highly entertaining game. Prior to the game Canuck players were warbling a song of two points, we want to finish first, and so on and so forth.

I believe it was a one of those shouting faces on TSN who first tossed off the word .premeditated.. He was giving too much credit to Bertuzzi - he can.t think that far ahead. Bear in mind, he is the same bonehead who flew off the bench last season during a game because one of his team mates was being pummelled. Ten games for that one. No restraint, right? He could have nailed Moore March 3d, the subsequent game to Naslund.s injury. Instead, he didn.t do anything until Vancouver.s home game against Colorado. Forget premeditation. Bertuzzi likely thinks the word has something to do with gurus and incense.

Bertuzzi proved conclusively he hasn.t a sniff about the concept of punishment fitting the crime. Naslund was hurt and missed three games; Moore could be done for good.

The first response of brick-brained commentators is simplistic: dump the instigator rule and all would be well. Stuff like Bertuzzi.s battering of Moore would never happen, why? Players would be accountable for their actions. .Accountable. is code for .eye for an eye.. Hammurabi, King of Babylon who died in 1750 BC, was fond of that law. Hockey players like the notion too, which means the NHL.s social development hasn.t progressed beyond the thinking of a man who died over 37-hundred years ago.

Which brings us to Mister Milquetoast - Gary Bettman. Being short, he hasn.t a lot of backbone; his reluctance to impose himself on the game, its conduct, and the attitudes of everyone on the ice is, in my opinion, a weakness which dooms his reign to failure. A compilation of his shortcomings as commissioner would be the size of the old Eaton.s catalogue. We.ll confine ourselves to one topic - player behaviour.

Which professional league in the world, any sport, has a higher tolerance of vicious behaviour than the NHL? Even rugby is much cleaner than hockey. Tolerance of violent acts by management translates into permission for the players. The NHL.s continued reluctance to run the game from top to bottom with an iron fist in a velvet glove, as professional soccer leagues do in Europe, has encouraged an attitude of damn the torpedoes among players.

Any self-respecting commissioner would be outraged as players openly expounded on their silly code. Which makes me wonder, why employ referees? If on-ice discipline is the purview of the players, why pay refs 175-thousand dollars/season to tweet their whistles when a goal is scored?

Mr Milquetoast by now should have given referees the authority to impose a decent code of ethics on players. Referees can call a good game - I.ve seen them do it once or twice. They must know player attitudes won.t change unless someone lights a fire under their bums. Don Cherry is famous for ranting about the sins of visors - sticks are carried higher because, well, he has a whole string of reason. So? Turn the referees loose - they.ll get rid of high sticks if they have backing from the league head office. Another thing: why are players allowed to swear at referees? Foul-mouthed objections have been tolerated for years. Hand out game misconducts - those penalties come with fines and suspensions. That would do the trick.

If the NHL demanded consistent civility, in the form of harsh penalties, then restraint would creep back into the game. Players would resist it but eventually they.d learn a brand-new code.

Even in Bertuzzi.s case, with a modern code of behaviour, he might have paused for a fraction of a moment to consider what he was doing. However being stupid, he would have smashed Steve Moore anyway.



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