Todd Bertuzzi will be "on probation" this season, but at least he'll be back on the ice.
Ruling that the Vancouver Canucks forward was given "the appropriate sanction" during a National Hockey League-record 17-month suspension since his attack on Steve Moore, commissioner Gary Bettman reinstated Bertuzzi yesterday for the 2005-06 season.
In a 4,500-word review, beginning with the prelude to the March 8, 2004, incident between the Canucks-Colorado Avalanche, the hit, Moore's career threatening injuries and his prospects for recovery versus Bertuzzi's loss of income and image, Bettman allowed Bertuzzi back under certain conditions.
"Mr. Bertuzzi is on notice that he will be held strictly accountable to a higher standard than other NHL players for his on-ice conduct," Bettman said, warning Bertuzzi he'd best not appear before him again in connection with another disciplinary hearing.
Bettman also applied Bertuzzi's probation from a British Columbia court last year that he not play in any games involving Moore until at least after Dec. 22, 2005.
Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm, was given a conditional discharge and also was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.
There also is the civil suit filed by Moore in Denver, naming Canucks' players, coach Mark Crawford and then-general manager Brian Burke.
Bettman has been considering an application for reinstatement from Bertuzzi's agent, Pat Morris, since April.
Moore continues a long recovery from a broken neck, cuts and a concussion.
Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson, said the ruling means Bertuzzi can earn $5.2 million US this year while his client doesn't know if he'll ever play hockey again.
"Steve Moore is disappointed by the decision because he is unable to resume his career and my never resume his NHL career," Danson said.
"Steve has an uncertain future. He has health challenges to deal with. While he maintains a very positive attitude ... at this point he really is in the hands of doctors who will have to make the determination whether or not he will be able to play again."
Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said he spoke briefly with Bertuzzi.
"He was in good spirits and was very relieved," Nonis said.
"It's a decision he hoped he would receive."
Bettman noted the unprecedented length of the 17-month suspension, even though it amounted to just 13 regular-season games on the schedule, because the 301-day lockout wiped out the 2004-05 schedule.
But Bettman added that Bertuzzi lost $501,926.39 in salary, a reported $350,000 in endorsements and was prevented from playing in Europe during the lockout and joining Team Canada for the World Cup and world championships.
Wayne Gretzky, Team Canada's executive director, said yesterday that Bertuzzi will be invited to the Team Canada orientation camp later this month for the 2006 Olympics and he expects him to play in Turin.
"No one condones what he did, but it's time to move on," Gretzky told TSN.
"It has been a tough situation for everybody, but I'm glad he has been reinstated."
Danson, meanwhile, said prior to the league announcement that Moore had undergone a comprehensive medical evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in June.
A follow-up exam is being conducted this week, the results of which won't be known until at least the end of the month.