Big Bert plays villain again

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Lockout be damned, Sun columnist Eric Francis is determined to press ahead with the 2004-05 NHL season. Today he guides the Calgary Flames in their home opener against the Vancouver Canucks, as played by former Stamp Don Blair, a huge Canucks fan and a man with further West Coast ties. He won a Grey Cup in 2000 with B.C.

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When reinstated by league commissioner Gary Bettman last month, Todd Bertuzzi was told to play nice.

However, one week into his conditional return to the NHL, Big Bert has landed himself in the middle of another controversy.

On a night when the fireworks should have been limited to the stirring home-opening ceremonies that saw the Flames' Western Conference champions banner raised, the Vancouver Canucks bruiser stole the show in more ways than one.

Not only did he ruin the Flames' homecoming party with a goal and three assists in a 6-2 Canucks win, he also drew the ire of 19,444 fans, who littered the ice following his second of two indiscretions.

The first was a vicious, unprovoked tomahawk chop to Jarome Iginla's wrist. The second was a slash to Iginla's knee 20 minutes later, which prompted a spirited scrum as Iginla struggled off the ice. Iginla finished the game but required post-game medical attention.

"Those better end up in the commissioner's video collection by tomorrow -- right next to The Last Samarai," said furious Flames coach Darryl Sutter.

"We did a good job ruining the party all by ourselves -- we didn't need (Bertuzzi's) help."

Harkening back to the club's storybook playoff run four months earlier, jersey-clad fans started filing into the 'Dome 90 minutes before puck drop, chanting and filling the renovated upper loge. When Steve Reinprecht followed an 18-minute ceremony by scoring four minutes in, many thought the roof would blow off.

"I had a tear in my eye thinking back to all that happened here last spring," said Martin Gelinas, following his first game back to the building where he scored the infamous Game 6 Goal Nobody Saw.

"The crowd was every bit as loud and red as I remember it."

It was silenced minutes later when Markus Naslund scored his first of two goals, followed by Henrik Sedin and Brendan Morrison.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish the season," chuckled retired Stamp-turned Canucks coach Don Blair, referring to last spring's loss to Calgary.

"I just hope we can finish it with Bert this time."

He may not be able to as Bertuzzi's probation will require a review of the incidents. The Flames, who had Robyn Regehr (wrist) back, host St. Louis tomorrow.


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