SUN Hockey Pool

Iggy's all for Bert's chance

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Todd Bertuzzi could have avoided the spotlight.

He knew returning to Canada to continue his hockey career would come with added scrutiny compared to any number of indifferent cities in the U.S.

In a pre-emptive public relations move, the Calgary Flames set up a conference call with the most popular player on their roster -- captain Jarome Iginla -- when they announced Bertuzzi's signing earlier this week.

But even Iginla knew that wouldn't stop the backlash sure to come over the addition of a figure as controversial as they get in the NHL.

A man whose sucker-punch and resulting dogpile on the ice ended Steve Moore's career.

A man who's still dealing with the aftershocks of the 'incident' through both civil courts and the court of public opinion.

"No, I'm not surprised," Iginla said yesterday at Calgary Centennial Arenas amid his five-day hockey school for kids. "It's big issues.

"Also, in Calgary, it's a very passionate hockey city, which is great -- it's one of the reasons why it is so great to play here."

And not so fun to play here as a member of the opposing team.

Bertuzzi was being booed by the Sea of Red long before the Moore incident.

Let's not forget signing Owen Nolan was debated last year. Some thought he was over-the-hill, injury prone and had nothing left in the tank.

Of course, intensifying the current debate is the fact no player in the league has ever been as vilified as Bertuzzi -- who deserves to be criticized for the sucker punch, but is a victim of unfortunate circumstances that led to injuries far worse than the initial punch could have caused.

"A lot of different signings, everybody debates. Sometimes people get more into it than others," said Iginla. "For a long time -- even before his incident -- he's a guy that was playing for Vancouver. Our fans love to get after him."

There are those in this city who believe in second chances, too.

Both on the ice and in the public eye, Bertuzzi seems to be getting that from some.

"I think there's also been a lot of supportive fans, which I think is great," said Iginla. "People that look forward to cheering for him now."

This isn't the first time since the incident Canadians have been debating the idea of Bertuzzi becoming a member of their team. He wore the Maple Leaf as a member of the 2006 Canadian Olympic Team, where he spent time on a line with Iginla.

The outcry in Calgary now is but a small cross-section of the national distress that took place in '06.

"I thought he handled it well. There were a lot of opinions on it both ways back then, whether he should have been added or not to represent Canada," Iginla said of Bertuzzi's ability to absorb the hostility. "It was a lot of pressure. I think over the years, I think with experience, he's going to handle it even better.

"It was definitely a difficult situation all the way around and hard situation to just move forward from -- it's something that's easier said than done. Talking to him, he's charged up."


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