A rough road for Bertuzzi

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Lurking behind dressing room curtains with stealth silence yesterday, it's clear Todd Bertuzzi would rather take a cross-check to the back of the head than face a media scrum.

In that regard, he's in mid-season form.

It has always been that way for Big Bert.

However, the Vancouver Canucks winger knows better than anyone that as part of his desire to put the ugly Steve Moore incident behind him, he'll have to grudgingly face a horde of microphone-toting sloths in every city he plays.

Having used Team Canada's camp to answer every question possible regarding the events leading up to and following his suspension, only the most naive of scribes would believe there's anything left to uncover in the smoldering mess.

Yet, as painful as both sides find the daily ritual of talking to one of the league's moodiest figures, it must be done. So, after opening the pre-season with two home appearances, Bertuzzi's first field trip of the year didn't promise to be much fun for anyone involved. And when pressed for a few minutes of his time after yesterday's morning skate at the Saddledome in which he didn't participate, he offered up this, well, slip of the tongue that could easily have made things worse:

Asked how his game might have to change to adapt to the NHL's new obstruction crackdown, No. 44 shrugged.

"The only adjustment for us is on the backcheck," said the grizzled winger, who refused to divulge the fact he wouldn't play in last night's game. "Before you got to whack the guy a little bit just to let him know you're there. Now you can't lay a stick on him."

Only the most cynical of folks would come down hard on his poor choice of wording considering the last time he "whacked a guy a little bit," he drew the attention of an entire sport, changing two players' lives forever.

However, what's done is done. And while the fans and media will continue revisiting the subject everywhere he goes this season, it truly is old news, (even if the man who handed him his 17-month, 20-game suspension -- league disciplinarian Colin Campbell -- just so happened to be in Calgary yesterday visiting teams as part of a league-wide tour.)

Linemate and good friend Markus Naslund says the uncomfortable gap between Bertuzzi and a scathing media has already improved.

"It's a lot different now than a year ago," said Naslund when asked if Bertuzzi has been handled fairly by the press since his return.

"He's answered the questions that he needs to answer and from that point on he needs to go forward and put that stuff behind him. He's probably had to learn a lot from everything that happened and he's grown as a person. Any time you go through something tough like that, you have to."

Asked how he thought fans around the league would react to his return, the man who received a warm welcome back by Vancouver faithful shrugged again.

"Like any other time I ever played before," said Bertuzzi, who has long been a target of Calgary's boo-birds. "People appreciate my style and the way I play and whatever happens happens. I'm out there for one thing and that's to win."

And to get on with his life.

He deserves that chance.


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