“Get out there and don’t dance.”
No, that wasn’t what then-Vancouver coach Marc Crawford said that fateful day in March 2004 about holding Colorado’s Steve Moore accountable for a past transgression.
Those words came from then-Kings coach Don Perry when he ordered enforcer Paul Mulvey several times to get off the bench. Mulvey refused and was put on waivers. Perry would be suspended for 15 days and the Kings fined $5,000.
That was 1982.
So, it’s not unprecedented for an NHL coach to order up -- in that case, explicitly -- a dose of on-ice frontier justice. Flash forward to this week and the explosive charges involving Crawford, now the Kings coach, revealed in court papers filed in Canada. Between the second and third periods of the Canucks-Avalanche game in question, he allegedly pointed to Moore’s name and number on a board with Colorado’s roster and “demanded that ‘he [Moore] must pay the price.’ ”
The disclosure came in sworn testimony in August from enforcer Todd Bertuzzi, now with the Ducks, and appeared to be backed up in some form by Canucks executive Dave Nonis in those court documents. Bertuzzi hit Moore from behind and then drove him head-first into the ice in what has been called one of the most vicious attacks in league history, effectively ending Moore’s career.
Moore suffered a broken neck and a concussion and court papers obtained Thursday by The Times, stated: “He continues to suffer and will suffer in the future post-concussive sequelae and symptoms. Moore is now at increased risk of developing premature epilepsy, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”
Crawford said little about the report Wednesday and a day later, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi defended him in strong terms: “I don’t think there’s any question he didn’t do anything wrong and that can make it doubly hard.”
Lombardi said they did not discuss the Moore incident when he interviewed Crawford for the Kings job in 2006.
Brian Burke, now the Ducks’ GM who was instrumental in bringing Bertuzzi to Anaheim this summer, was Crawford’s boss in Vancouver. During a conference call Thursday announcing the return of Scott Niedermayer, Burke was asked about Crawford’s alleged role but said only: “This isn’t the time or place, but I wouldn’t comment anyway.”
However, he told TSN, “You have to find out who leaked these documents. I mean, I think there’s only one person in Canada that has an incentive to leak them. So go ask him how they got leaked. I’m a lawyer. I expect professional conduct and I’m not sure that this meets those levels.”
Meanwhile, Crawford was unavailable at the Kings practice facility in El Segundo before Thursday’s game against the Sabres but issued this statement:
“Media reports have recently resurfaced regarding my alleged involvement in the 2004 on-ice incident in Vancouver. When this occurred more than three years ago, I responded to every possible question and inquiry about this unfortunate incident. With that in mind, I am not going to re-engage this process and comment further on these reports.”
Presumably, those questions were raised by the NHL, which suspended Bertuzzi for 17 months (most of which came during the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season and fined the Canucks $250,000). Moore is asking for $38 million, in an amended claim, having filed a civil suit against Bertuzzi, the Canucks and the then-parent company of the Canucks, Orca Bay Hockey Inc.
“The NHL is not involved with the civil action, only to the extent when we imposed a penalty to the team at the time of the incident,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on his radio show Thursday. “Anything that I know about this case, at this point, is what I read in the paper.”
Moore’s lawyer, Tim Danson, declined to comment when reached by The Times. But Bertuzzi’s lawyer, Geoffrey Adair, told the Toronto Star last month that Crawford could be added as a co-defendant, foreshadowing the legal strategy apparently now in play by the Bertuzzi camp, assigning some responsibility to Crawford.
Court papers detailed the atmosphere in the days leading up to the game on March 8, 2004. The Canucks were outraged over an earlier incident between Moore and their captain Markus Naslund, who was injured and left the game.
“There’s definitely a bounty on his head,” Vancouver’s Brad May said at the time. “Clean hit or not, that’s our best player and you respond. It’s going to be fun when we get him.”
In the filings obtained by The Times, there are no other Canucks players, other than Bertuzzi, speaking about the alleged Crawford quote. The Vancouver Sun quoted Brendan Morrison on Thursday as saying he does not recall Crawford targeting Moore between periods.
Crawford’s boss, Lombardi, talked about what “paying the price” can mean.
“You know how many times that’s said?” he asked. “Pay the price is probably as mild as you can get in some locker rooms.”
Lombardi says he thinks Crawford, unfairly, has “become a symbol of broader issues in the sport.”
“What you’re asking in the culture of hockey: What does ‘pay the price’ mean?” he said. You can go to an individual, ‘You have to start paying the price, i.e., take a hit.’ You’ve got to make the other team pay the price, that could be as much as going in running a guy in the forecheck or going to the net hard.
” . . . Now you move up the ladder. ‘OK, is paying the price going up to a guy and saying, ‘Hey, next time you touch this guy, I’m coming after you?’
“This doesn’t only happen in our sport. Let’s get real. You throw a fastball at my guy and I’ll throw one at you. . . .”
Noting that the civil case will continue into next year, Lombardi was asked if the controversy would affect Crawford’s focus and job performance.
“I don’t think it will affect him negatively, but I don’t think it’s practical to say it’s not going to consume some of his thoughts,” Lombardi said. “Most of the time when things like this happen, it’s not when you’re at the rink, it’s when you go home and you’re not in the fire.”
Times staff writer Dan Arritt contributed to this report.