The Vancouver Canucks' general manager has put another twist to the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore debacle, suggesting in court documents released today that Moore was not specifically targeted for revenge by then-Canucks coach Marc Crawford.
In an Aug. 23 deposition, Vancouver Canucks general manger Dave Nonis told lawyers: "I have heard that Crawford pointed to a number of players and said that they must -- '... they got to pay the price tonight.'
"And my understanding is that it was before the game started. And my understanding is that included a number of players on the Avalanche, including their star players, you know, Hejduk and Sakic, and things that, I'm sure, coaches say on a regular basis."
Nonis said it was Canucks players Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and Mattias Ohlund who told him what Crawford had said in reference to the March 8, 2004 game between the Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche.
Later, Nonis said he wasn't sure whether players had told him Crawford made his "pay the price" comment before the game or later during an intermission.
In the 2004 game, Bertuzzi attacked Moore from behind, driving his head into the ice. Moore, who had already fought another Canuck player earlier in the game and was targeted because of an incident during a previous game between the two teams, suffered a broken neck and severe facial lacerations.
Moore is suing Bertuzzi and the Canucks for $38 million.
Bertuzzi and the Canucks deny Moore's claims, which have not been proved in court.
In court documents released several weeks ago, Bertuzzi was quoted as claiming that Crawford, between periods, pointed at Moore's name alone when he made the "pay the price" comment.
Nonis, when asked about Bertuzzi's claims, said it was the first time he had heard that version of events.
Bertuzzi was asked during his examination his recollection of the assault.
"I'll give you exactly what I remember, okay, and I'll give it to you," Bertuzzi said. "What I remember is coming in at him with another player on our team, on the far side of the boards, bumping into him. I remember skating with him all the way up the ice asking him to fight. I asked him four, five, six, seven times to fight. Went all the way...
"I'm saying let's fight. Let's go ..."
Elsewhere in the court documents, Moore's lawyer Tim Danson is quoted as asking Bertuzzi what would have happened if he had not done something to Moore. Bertuzzi replied: "It would have been a pretty long week for me."
Bertuzzi's lawyer, Geoffrey Adair, told the Star that Crawford may be added as a defendant in the case. That would allow Bertuzzi to argue that if there are damages awarded in the case, the team and Crawford should share responsibility.
Bertuzzi's allegation that Crawford incited the assault surfaced several weeks ago and drew a strongly-worded denial from the Canucks. Crawford, now coaching with the Los Angeles Kings, refused to confirm or deny the claim.
Nonis's statements were made public in a Toronto court today after a court officer refused Bertuzzi's request to seal the case's depositions.
"The submission by the defendants that a fair trial for Bertuzzi would be put in jeopardy if the discovery transcripts were filed and thus open to public inspection and reporting by the press is speculative at best," Master R. Dash wrote in his reasons, explaining why he denied Bertuzzi's motion.
Adair has sought to have some court material sealed ever since the Star reported that he offered Moore $350,000 to settle the lawsuit.
"Mr. Adair argues that the press did not have the full background and the remarks in the (Moore's lawyer Tim Danson) letter were taken out of context."
Moreover, Adair argued that Bertuzzi would not be able to get a fair jury trial in Toronto, thanks to the Star article about the settlement offer and subsequent press reports.
Dash dismissed that argument, too.
"Any damage from the release of the ... letter has already been done and cannot be reversed," Dash wrote.