December 23, 2005
We want a medal - at any cost
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press
The message is as clear as it gets.
The hockey world aims to rehabilitate Todd Bertuzzi at all costs, even if it means the reputation of the Olympic team.
By selecting Bertuzzi for the Canadian Olympic team, people such as Wayne Gretzky and Kevin Lowe have soundly slapped Steve Moore, the man Bertuzzi injured, in the face. They've slapped all of us who were appalled at what Bertuzzi did and at the minimal penalty he was assessed.
Lowe, Team Canada's assistant executive director, went so far as to say he was "proud" to have Bertuzzi on the team.
You used to be proud of your kids when they had a buck and decided to give it to someone who didn't have any money, or when there were choices to make and they wound up making the right one or when they saw someone being bullied and stood up for them.
I guess the word proud has taken on a different meaning.
I don't think I'll cheer for a team that uses the word "proud" the way Team Canada used it when it selected Bertuzzi.
As for Moore, the young Colorado Avalanche forward who had his neck broken when he was jumped from behind by Bertuzzi nearly two years ago, he continues his battle to recover.
Spare us the forgive-and-forget routine. We hear the choir sing that song every time Bertuzzi's name comes up. When the Vancouver Canucks begged the NHL to allow Bertuzzi back because without him they sucked, the NHL decided 13 games was enough of a suspension. Can't we forgive and forget?
We're awful good at forgetting Steve Moore.
Now when such hockey icons as Gretzky and Lowe come to Bertuzzi's defence, they use the "forgive-and-forget" line. One wonders how quickly they would have forgiven and forgotten if Bertuzzi had ended the career of one of their players?
And spare us the "what a brave thing the Olympic selectors have done" refrain.
There's nothing brave about selecting Bertuzzi. It was the gutlessly easy thing to do. It's so easy to play to Canadians' self-worth. We aren't good at much, so we'd better stay on top of the hockey world -- no matter what we have to do.
Winning comes first.
The brave, and right thing to do, would have been to leave Bertuzzi off the roster and publicly tell the world why he was left off. The Olympic selectors had plenty of options. The Red Wings Brendan Shanahan comes to mind. So does Jason Spezza or Alex Tanquay or Eric Staal or . . . never mind, there are 15 other forwards who would do a good enough job.
And even if there were no other options, why reward Bertuzzi? He's already reaped the reward of being allowed back to play sooner than he ever should have been allowed to return.
One can hardly wait to see the European press get their hands on Bertuzzi. For all the whiners in Canada who complain about the tough ride Bertuzzi has gotten in the press here, they haven't seen anything yet. There are no out-of-bounds questions for the European press. And they aren't particularly sensitive to crocodile tears. Should Bertuzzi lose it even for a moment in Turin, either on or off the ice, they'll be on him like hounds on a fox.
Even though hockey people believe themselves to be a power unto themselves, anyone representing Canada at these Olympics has to be approved by the Canadian Olympic Committee.
The COC unanimously approved Hockey Canada's list of players late last night.
Obviously, the COC, too, only cares about gold medals.
The Olympics were at one time the showcase of athletic purity. Making the Olympics was the reward for athletes who were dedicated enough to prepare for four years, often through great hardship, to compete on the world stage.
On Feb. 10, Bertuzzi will stand in a stadium and speak the following words.
"In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."
Really look at the words. That is the Olympic oath.
There was a time when that oath meant something. People now take the words to mean win, no matter what. The Canadian hockey team and Bertuzzi ought to fit in.