VANCOUVER -- A humble Todd Bertuzzi finally faced the media yesterday, admitting that "the last 17 months have been the most challenging time in my life."
Bertuzzi was suspended after mugging Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche on March 8, 2004 and was reinstated by National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman a week ago yesterday.
"It hasn't been pleasant," Bertuzzi said, "and I'm sure it hasn't been pleasant for a lot of people. It hasn't been pleasant for the game of hockey, for Steve's family, his side, my side. And it's something that you don't want to see in the game.
"We're trying to make (hockey) a better game and I understand that, and I know that I'm a key component to make sure that the game changes."
Looking nervous and contrite, Bertuzzi said, "The past 17 months have been a challenging time in my life and for everyone associated with what happened March 8. I've learned a lot. I've learned to put things in perspective. I've learned how important hockey is to me. Most importantly, I've learned how important family and friends are. Today's a new beginning for me and my family.
"There's no way I can change what happened in the past. But I'm going to do what I can to make sure that my career and my life aren't defined by what happened March 8, but rather what I did before and most importantly, what I do after."
Bertuzzi has been criticized in some circles for not having apologized to Moore, but he said that he has repeatedly tried to do so.
"I've made many attempts to and have gotten nowhere," he said. "I wish him all the best in recovery and I was hoping for the opportunity to confront him and speak to him and his family and it has just never come about."
Bertuzzi's agent, Pat Morris, said, "For the record, there have been over 10 attempts made, through the Avalanche, through agent Larry Kelly, through a letter to (Moore's lawyer) Tim Danson three days prior to the reinstatement.
"On the morning of the hearing, it was pretty clear that Steve wasn't ready to speak to Todd."
In April, Bertuzzi had a hearing with Bettman to seek reinstatement. "When I went in there," he said, "I just looked him in the eye and I told him I made a mistake and I want a chance to come back and change things and I'm thankful the opportunity has been given to me to come back and to change things. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Bertuzzi said that when Bettman's call finally came, "We just had a few discussions about my situation and he just let me know that I'm being reinstated. Obviously there's a little bit of a microscope on me when I come back, on my conduct and how I have to act.
"I'm a firm believer in second chances. And if we're going to go through life not giving anyone second chances, what kind of life are we going to have around here? People make mistakes in life."