SUN Hockey Pool

Bertuzzi out to win fans

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

No visiting player in recent memory has been the target of as much Saddledome derision as Todd Bertuzzi.

Boobirds have been out in full force every time he touched the puck amidst the Sea of Red.

Even before the Steve Moore incident.

So, the newest Calgary Flames forward is well aware he'll need to win over the hearts of a segment of Flames fans in the coming season.

"Hopefully it won't take too long," said the hulking winger who signed a one-year, US$1.95 million contract yesterday. "The last thing you want to do is be a home guy and getting booed. You know what, it's a great Canadian market, they're passionate about their hockey and I'm excited to come there. It's always been a fun rink for me to play in, especially with the amount of games we've played there and playoffs."

Needing to add a veteran, physical forward who fits into the top-six ranks and at that price range, the Flames found exactly what they wanted in the 33-year-old Bertuzzi.

A couple of weeks ago, Bertuzzi was bought out of the second year of his contract with the Anaheim Ducks, Instead of playing in Anaheim for US$4 million, he'll receive two-thirds of that over two seasons from the Ducks.

Bertuzzi, whose bull-in-a-china-shop style of play made him an all-star, was disliked by the Flames faithful, but that disdain rose to a new level after his attack on Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore late in the 2003-04 season -- an apparent retaliation for a hit on then-Vancouver Canucks linemate Markus Naslund.

Bertuzzi received an indefinite suspension that lasted until the 2005-06 NHL season and has since played in Vancouver, Florida, Detroit and Anaheim.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of assault causing bodily harm and received a conditional discharge and a year's probation. He had to perform 80 hours of community service.

Bertuzzi is still facing a civil suit in an Ontario court.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter said the Moore incident should be left in the past.

"I have a traffic ticket from three years ago," Sutter said. "I hope there's three or four fans that can forget I went through a red light. I guess I expected certain members of the media to bring that up."

Forgive and forget is a common sentiment throughout the organization. Captain Jarome Iginla and Sutter talked about signing Bertuzzi, and Iginla was all for it.

"He is a character guy," Iginla insisted. "I've known him over the years, and he made a very bad decision. I assure you if he could take that back, he would. I do believe in second chances."

In fact, Iginla helped recruit Bertuzzi, who weighed offers from a couple of teams.

"Jarome is 100 percent why I'm a Calgary Flame," Bertuzzi said. "I had great talks with him, and everything he said about the organization and the city was nothing but positive. I played my best hockey when I was in Canada under the microscope and under the pressure, and I think that might be a little kick start to get that going again."

Last season, Bertuzzi netted 16 goals and 40 points. He missed 14 games due to a concussion and said his back problems are in the past.

Moreover, he believes he can contribute more.

"Absolutely or I wouldn't be playing. I would have announced my retirement then. Moving that much, moving my family around that much takes a toll on your family, and I think it would be selfish of me to continue doing something like that."

Sutter lowered expectations for those hoping Bertuzzi will rebound to the 46-goal, 97-point campaign of 2002-03.

"I'm good with the way he played last year. If he can build on that, it's a good fit for us," Sutter said. "If you're expecting Todd to come in and be a 20-to 30-goal guy, that's not relevant. That's if he was a $4- or $5-million player."


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