Better days ahead for Bertuzzi

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Those howls of protest from hockey fans about Todd Bertuzzi going to Turin have not discouraged the Canucks winger from packing his bags for Italy.

In fact, he has taken an interest in exploring his Italian heritage when Team Canada flies to the Olympics in a few weeks, and perhaps will look up some relatives.

"I've never been to Italy, but my grandparents have," the Sudbury-born Bertuzzi said. "I'm looking forward to taking my family there and enjoying that.

"I have no idea (which part of the country his relatives are based), but I'm going to find out soon."

Talking about Turin is a welcome relief for Bertuzzi, who spent the first few weeks of his reinstatement this season pursued about the Steve Moore incident. Once a few games against the Colorado Avalanche were completed, the furor about his return to the National Hockey League died down a bit, only to surge again when Wayne Gretzky named him to Team Canada just before Christmas.

BETTER PRODUCTION

The Canucks perceived inability to compete this year also were traced in part to Bertuzzi's lack of production. There also was a frosty relationship with the local media, which led to calls to trade Bertuzzi for goaltending help when Dan Cloutier was hurt.

But in the space of a few days, Bertuzzi cleared the air in an interview, insisting he was intent on staying here and building a house. Then he went on a points streak and was named to Team Canada. Before last night's game with the Maple Leafs, the Canucks had won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December, which also reduced the heat on him and the club.

New No. 1 netminder Alex Auld sits just a few feet from Bertuzzi in the Canucks dressing room, and gets a bird's eye view of the media scrums that often surround the 6-foot-3, 245-pound winger.

"I think he has done a great job dealing with everything," Auld said. "Todd believes in himself, he understands the criticism that's going to come and he has handled it very well. It has obviously been a trying time for both him and his family (wife Julie and children, Jaden and Tag), but they've dealt with it."


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