|Scott Parker had two stints with the Avs before retiring after the 2007-08 season. (Getty Images)|
When you consider who the biggest villains are in hockey today, the list to choose from is dwindling. The number of big, tough enforcers has diminished the same as their roles so the guys that were always easy to point to. The Ogie Oglethorpes of the league aren't as widespread.
But you don't have to just be an enforcer to be a villain. Todd Bertuzzi, now with the Red Wings, is a good example. He might be the most creative penalty-shot artist in the game today but will forever be tied to a moment early in his career with the Vancouver Canucks. Of course that would be his career-ending hit on young Avalanche forward Steve Moore.
Over the years he has been vilified and when he hangs up the skates that will undoubtedly be the first thing that people think of when reflecting on Bertuzzi's playing days, that hit on Moore.
There is at least one former player out there who thinks it's a bad rap for Bertuzzi. That would be Scott Parker who was actually an enforcer for the Avs during his career.
In an excellent two part interview with Parker (Part I and Part II) with Brett Shumway of Mile High Hockey that is well worth your time to read, Parker covers the canvas from his life after hockey (running a barber shop with his wife in Colorado) to thoughts on the way the game is played today. The most interesting aspect of all, though, was his defense of Bertuzzi. That's right, a former Av defending the player hated most in Colorado.
Yeah, yeah. He's a good man. He, he is. I mean, he did get dealt some bad cards, and the thing is, [Steve Moore] always thought he was better than everybody else. He went to Harvard, you know what, blow me. College grad. I never went to college, but I can kick your ass. I'll bring you right down to my IQ level if you want. I'll hit you about four times in the skull, that'll bring you right down. So, you know, Todd just, it was one of those games. Markus Naslund, the captain of the Canucks, gets taken out. It was a little sketchy what happened, but, hey. And then Moore, he fought, I think Cooke came after him and then he fought, which wasn't really a fight. Todd wasn't really thrilled with it, they were losing, I think it was 8 to 1 in their home barn.
You don't do that in Canada. You talk about a sport that they love? You talk about Europeans and soccer? That's hockey in Canada. So it's the same way, if you don't respond up there, they will eat you alive.
And Todd, he might have gone overboard, and what's crazy is, even talking to him after the fact and talking to Moe, Morris and other boys that were in that, that happened, I watched that tape about a hundred times, and just the way Todd hit him, and he actually grabbed him to soften his blow when he went down, and what happened was when Moe landed on him, he actually hit the back of his neck and it actually popped up. You know, just the way Todd was holding him.
But you know, it wasn't vicious, it was just, it was the heat of the moment. It was one of those things where you, you want to do something, but you don't know if it's gonna be big, if it's gonna be small, or how it's gonna pan out. But you wanna do something. And Todd, he might not have been right and it might have been a little overboard, but you know, he did something. I mean, at least he responded, at least he tried.
Welp, that's one way to look at it.
Obviously Parker knows the principals in this conversation better than most people and understands the physical side of hockey as well as anyone considering his job description over the years. Still, it's hard for me to completely buy what Parker is selling here. I have a hard time not accepting this hit as not vicious.
Without getting into too much of a rant here, this is part of the problem I have with enforcers in the sport/self-policing. It's easy to go too far. Moreover I don't think this one play prohibitted any future players from ever going after a Canuck again.
The "bringing him down to my IQ level" train of thought doesn't do a whole lot for me either. It makes me wonder how Princeton-educated George Parros
It's just hard to swallow the idea that we should feel for the offender and not the victim in a case like this, even if Parker doesn't completely let Bertuzzi off the hook. He does admit that Bertuzzi probably went overboard but at the same time offers up a little defense.
It's probably safe to assume Parker isn't the only one who feels this way.
H/t to Puck Daddy