Five years, one month and 19 days after the incident that changed too many lives, the lawyer for Steve Moore, surrounded by papers and motions and a multitude of documents, was back in court yesterday.
This is the case that will not end.
On the same day that Todd Bertuzzi played another meaningful hockey game -- his 259th National Hockey League game in his fifth different uniform since he pile-drove Moore into forced retirement -- there was the case against him and the former owners of the Vancouver Canucks, sadly inching along.
The word justice, spelled in Latin, may have been on the wall of the University Ave., courtroom yesterday, but there has not yet been justice for Moore. No games to play. No income earned from his profession of choice. Only another motion to argue. Only another exchange of legal filings.
Since Bertuzzi lost a year to suspension, which suspiciously corresponded with the NHL's locked-out season, the large and occasionally punishing winger has been paid $16.4 million US to play professional hockey. Moore, who did nothing wrong but badly attempt to body check Markus Naslund, had his career ended on March 8, 2004, his income lost, his life severely altered. All that followed on more than one occasion was detectives being hired by the Canucks and calls from Moore to York Region police to inform them he was being harassed.
That was among the court room revelations between the legal arguments yesterday. On more than one occasion, Orca Bay Ltd., former owner of the Canucks, had Moore followed and under surveillance by private investigators. At least, Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson, won the right yesterday to have access to those reports and those who did investigate Moore before he and police shut them down.
Supposedly, from a legal standpoint, this was a good day.
By human standards, not so much.
And if this tells you anything, it tells you about the plodding nature of the law, how a five-year-old incident and a career lost and all the anguish and personal tumult that goes along with that gets buried in the endless arguments that barely seem relevant to what should be an open-and-shut case.
This is not all that complicated. The facts seem evident.
The question becomes how much do Bertuzzi and Orca Bay owe Moore? And does each passing year add to the price-tag, and should it?
When this thing eventually goes to trial, sometime after October when a date should be set, that matter will be up to the jury to determine. How much was Moore's career and lost livelihood and altered life worth?
The replays, seen over and over again, are pretty straightforward to anyone who has watched a hockey game.
Bertuzzi stalked Moore from behind. He sucker-punched him, likely to a state of unconsciousness. If Moore wasn't unconscious from the punch, he was after being slammed to ice, head first, by the force of Bertuzzi's body. Bertuzzi then tried to throw one more punch.
Had it connected, it could have been the death blow.
Only a hero named Andrei Nikolishin, then playing for the Colorado Avalanche, stepped in and grabbed Bertuzzi's arm, saving Moore and Bertuzzi at the very same time.
All that seems so distant now, except we can't allow ourselves to forget about Steve Moore. His case is important and remains important. His life is important. His story needs to be told over and over again.
Early in this lawsuit, an offer was made to settle. An offer so tiny it almost could be considered insulting.
Since then, the case went to judge that ordered mediation, but no settlement could be worked out from that. And in between the motions and the legal filings, the blame game continues: Bertuzzi blaming former coach Marc Crawford for inciting his actions; Orca Bay distancing itself from Bertuzzi, claiming he acted on his own; Moore's lawyer wanting this to proceed in an expedient manner and too often running into walls.
Steve Moore deserves a happy ending. One that's quick, rich, and painful only to those left to write cheques.