No rush to settle this

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Lord knows, Gary Bettman has spent this winter driving everybody nuts by doing nothing. Yesterday he did what he does best -- which is nothing -- and, by gosh, it was the right thing.

He and his lieutenants listened, we're sure, to hours of compelling arguments in the Todd Bertuzzi reinstatement hearing, including those offered by the aggrieved Steve Moore, Bertuzzi himself and the Vancouver Canucks.

At the end of it all, reflecting the same spirit that has enveloped the collecting bargaining farce that has kept arenas dark all over North America this winter, Bettman hardly acknowledged publicly that anything transpired.

In this case, however, that's a good thing.

Haste is not the essence of what this should be all about. Unless there is a hockey season we don't know about set to break out on the first of May that Bertuzzi would like to be part of, what's the point?

Indeed, until there is a CBA in place, which may not be the case until the end of this calendar year, or longer, what would be accomplished by reinstating Bertuzzi right now, other than to minimize his misdeed?

At the end of last year, the expectation of a large part of the populace, rightly or wrongly, was that Bertuzzi would not be available to the Canucks until well into the 2004-05 season, if at all. Whether that was Bettman's intent isn't known. Since there was no 2004-05 season, though, there still is some expectation that Bertuzzi won't be available to Vancouver, at least not immediately, when hockey returns.

Aside from that, there is Bettman's stated intention that any decision on Bertuzzi will take into account Moore's health. This is not a good sign for an early return for the Canucks power forward, given the fact that Moore still suffers from serious post-concussion symptoms that have deprived him even of the ability to stay in shape through exercise.

Wouldn't it make more sense to make this decision when the NHL gets back into the business of playing hockey games? At that point, a more accurate assessment could be made about Moore's future in the game, if he has one.

Bettman can't help but be influenced and affected by the existence of a civil suit that Moore has launched not only against Bertuzzi but against the Canucks and several of its executives. As commissioner of a league in which the Canucks are a member, Bettman must be very sensitive not only to do the right thing but also the optics of doing the right thing.

That civil suit was filed in Denver, but there is a very good chance it will not remain there. The Canucks have filed a motion to dismiss it, based upon the fact that Colorado has no jurisdiction since the incident didn't happen there. Bertuzzi is expected to file a similar motion and there's a good chance it will succeed on legal grounds.

That would mean Moore's legal team would have to file its suit in Vancouver, where it might be more difficult to get a sympathetic jury, given that there is more sentiment favourable to Bertuzzi there.

Amid all the legal wrangling, there remains the cold hard fact of a violent attack far outside the lines of acceptable behaviour, even in a rough sport such as hockey. Moore is damaged, perhaps to the point that it will affect his future, even if that future doesn't include hockey, as most people suspect.

An awful lot of the discussion in this country has dwelt upon what is fair or unfair punishment for Bertuzzi. He has paid a big price, to be sure, but whatever that price, it is not as great as the one that Moore is paying and will continue to pay, as a victim.

The fact that his suspension happens to coincide with a lockout has no bearing on his penalty. Sure, he has been without a paycheque since last March, but that's only six weeks longer than his teammates have been without pay, either.

We only can hope that Bettman is mulling all these issues and will take all the time he needs. No one is suggesting Bertuzzi shouldn't be back on the ice at some point with his Canucks teammates.

But there's definitely no need to rush. Just keep doing what you're doing, Gary.


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