Opportunism knocks

TURIN -- Steve Moore has been almost invisible since Todd Bertuzzi took his hockey career away.

You call, he doesn't answer. You ask for bitterness, he gives you none. You ask for comment on Bertuzzi's controversial presence on Team Canada and he politely declines.

He doesn't want to be anyone's distraction. Only now, in the filing of a lawsuit this week, as the Olympic hockey tournament begins, Moore's attorney has intentionally or unintentionally altered his client's public view, from victim to opportunist.

Of course, Moore should be paid for his misfortune. That is obvious. Five million. Ten million. Twenty million. The number will be what the courts of Ontario eventually decide, assuming they do the right thing and decide in his favour.

But the timing of the lawsuit, and the explanation for it, comes off now as a weak attempt to disrupt Bertuzzi's Olympics, to bring him back into a controversial spotlight, to essentially reopen a debate that Team Canada could have left behind by not naming Bertuzzi to its Olympic roster.

The juxtaposition of Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi has been ever-shifting since the horrible mindless incident of March 8, 2004. Bertuzzi was the instant villain -- and still, in many ways, should be. Moore was the man attacked, his hockey career, no matter which line he played on, was crushed as he was crushed to the ice.

That fact can never be altered or forgotten.

There is no defence for what Bertuzzi did, which is why the courts should sock him in every conceivable way. But at the same time, the opportunism of the filing of the lawsuit this week is a disturbing scream for publicity at a time when the attention really should be elsewhere.

It plays right alongside the disgrace of the hockey community in its attempts to turn Moore into something other than victim, to somehow paint him as the author of his own demise.

But his place in this tragedy should never be diminished.

This hasn't been the best showcase of a month for the National Hockey League. What with Jose Theodore testing positive and Rick Tocchet doing his own Super Bowl shuffle and Wayne Gretzky's wife apparently flipping coins and everybody and his mother injured and skipping the Olympic Games.

This was supposed to be the showcase for hockey, but the interruptions keep coming, day after day, the latest a spirited $20-million lawsuit.

"I'm not sure about the timing of this," said Mattias Ohlund of Team Sweden and of the Vancouver Canucks, a Bertuzzi teammate.

Bertuzzi was watching television in the athletes village on Wednesday when he learned he was being sued once again. The first time Moore's lawyers filed suit was in Colorado. That was thrown out in October. It took four months to refile in Toronto.

The timing, but not the suit itself, is curious.

Tim Danson, the lawyer for Moore, said he wanted to file the suit at the last minute to bring as little attention to the case as possible. And while that has been Moore's modus operandi throughout this terrible ordeal, it has rarely been Danson's on any of his historically public cases.

Even earlier this week, a request to interview Moore was denied because Danson said he didn't want to come off as anti-Canadian, or not patriotic. "He's as much a Team Canada fan as anybody," Danson said.

But the lawsuit brings attention, no matter what was intended.

"It has been a long year already," Bertuzzi said, when confronted with questions about the suit. "It's something I have to deal with. It has nothing to do with (the Olympics)."

When asked about the timing of the suit, Bertuzzi said: "I don't have a comment. They're going to make their own decisions. I just have to deal with it."

Bertuzzi talked briefly with Team Canada coach Pat Quinn yesterday, assured him he wouldn't be distracted. His play through two easy Team Canada wins has been exemplary. Still, the lawsuit is there. It isn't going away.

"It has been tough on both guys," said Adam Foote, former teammate of Moore. "I feel for both of them."

And the Olympics go on, amidst another interruption.