Fans split on adding Bertuzzi

Times Staff Writer

John Miller owns a small business in the city of Orange and has had experience with workers who make mistakes. Sometimes they are big ones.

So when the subject comes up about Todd Bertuzzi, signed by the Ducks on Monday, Miller’s reaction is tempered by that experience.

“Everybody deserves a second chance,” he said. Miller is not alone.

An original Ducks season-ticket holder, he remembers well how Bertuzzi, then with the Vancouver Canucks, blindsided Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore with a punch to the head and ended Moore’s career.


And he remembers how reviled Bertuzzi became.

“That was a terrible incident ... it was devastating for the sport,” Miller said. “It gave the sport a black eye.”

But he also said he understands why Ducks General Manager Brian Burke, who helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion, would sign a player with enough baggage to fill a cargo hold.

Bertuzzi “had a role to do and, unfortunately, emotions get carried away out on the ice,” said Miller, who plays recreational hockey. “It’s a terrific example of what the game isn’t.”

He knows some fans are upset by the signing. But again, there is a sense of forgiveness.

“People who haven’t played the game can’t realize how emotional and how much adrenaline there is in a game,” Miller said.

While reaction by Ducks fans has been mixed, many are willing to look past the Moore incident and judge Bertuzzi by what he does in Anaheim.

Some applaud the signing of the former 40-goal scorer who was once the NHL’s top power forward. Others say $8 million over two seasons is too much for a player who was injured most of last season.


And there are some fans who despise Bertuzzi for what he did to Moore on March 8, 2004 -- a move that resulted in Bertuzzi being suspended for the rest of the season.

A sampling from the Ducks’ official online message board proved varied.

Wrote one fan, “You can’t quantify Bert’s hockey career on one mistake. The NHL has passed their judgement [sic] and the fans need to accept that.”

Another said, “Our society is based on second chances.... I say give him a shot.”


Then there are the dissenters.

One regular message board participant wrote: “I may not actively boo him, but you will never see me doing anything to cheer, support, or otherwise acknowledge Bertuzzi.”

Another fan simply said, “Sorry, I still don’t like Bertuzzi. He shouldn’t be in the league, and on the ducks [sic] even more so.”

When asked Thursday what he anticipated fan reaction would be, Burke didn’t mince words.


“I don’t get paid to do things that are politically correct,” he said. “When we sit in a room, we don’t see what we think the fans would like. The question that we ask is, ‘Is this a guy that would improve our hockey club?’

“I also believe players deserve a second chance. I was there when Marty McSorley clubbed our guy [Donald Brashear]. This isn’t just me sticking up for my guy. I’ve been fairly consistent in giving guys a second chance. I got Todd Bertuzzi because I believe he makes our club better. If he doesn’t make us better, then I haven’t done my job.”

Team spokesman Alex Gilchrist said no fans have canceled their season tickets because of Bertuzzi and that the more pressing question from fans has been what will happen to star Teemu Selanne, who is considering retirement.

Several fans interviewed said they have put their faith in Burke, who has had many moves pay off in his two years as general manager.


Jeff Strang of Mission Viejo, another original season-ticket holder, is one of them. His biggest concern is whether the back problems that limited Bertuzzi to 15 regular-season games with the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings last season will return.

“He’s paid his price,” Strang said of Bertuzzi’s hit on Moore. “It’s like a guy coming out of jail. I give a guy the benefit of the doubt. I’m very comfortable with the Ducks signing him. As long as he doesn’t have his back problems, he should be good for 30 goals.”

Burke is certain of one thing. He has no regrets.

“Todd Bertuzzi crossed the line and he was punished severely,” he said. “We’re the third team that he’s been on since then. At least two other GMs saw some merits in him.”