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Moore Is Happy Just to Be Alive

Avalanche rookie, felled by a blindside punch, hasn't considered forgiveness yet.

March 30, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Speaking for the first time since he was blindsided by a punch to the head from Vancouver Canuck winger Todd Bertuzzi, Colorado Avalanche rookie Steve Moore said Monday he was "just fortunate to be alive."

Moore sustained a broken neck and a concussion after being punched by Bertuzzi on March 8, the most recent incident to scar hockey's reputation.

Wearing a cervical collar over the top of his white dress shirt, Moore spoke optimistically about returning to hockey. He also said he felt lucky to be alive as he recounted his horror as doctors cut into his gear so they could further stabilize his neck and spine.

"I feel very fortunate to be able to be here today, to walk in here today," Moore said in a conference room at Pepsi Center three hours before the Avalanche played the Kings. "As I sit here today, I don't know whether I'll be able to play again, but I remain optimistic. I'm more just fortunate to be alive."

Moore, 25, said he cannot remember the punch or the 15- to 20-minute time frame that preceded it. Moore's first memory is regaining consciousness 15 to 20 minutes after getting punched.

"I can't explain how scary it is to kind of wake up to a nightmare," he said. "I'm playing a game, and the next thing I know I'm lying in a room with medical personnel standing over me, and I have a neck brace on, and I'm having my equipment cut off me, and I'm strapped down and I really had no idea what's going on."

Moore, released from a Denver hospital last Monday, said he had not yet considered forgiving Bertuzzi.

"I have not talked to Todd Bertuzzi. I have a lot of family, a lot of relatives, a lot of close friends that I have not been able to get back to in the last three weeks, and that's my main concern," he said.

"[Forgiveness] is not something I've really thought about. I'm more just about feeling better tomorrow than I do today. It's kind of enough on my plate just to deal with that."

Moore declined to say whether he would file a civil lawsuit against Bertuzzi, who could be charged with assault pending the outcome of a Vancouver police investigation.

Bertuzzi was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, and he must apply for reinstatement next season. Moore declined to comment on whether he thought the suspension was of proper length.

Moore did speak in general on the concept of retribution. Bertuzzi's punch was retaliation for Moore's clean hit three weeks earlier on Vancouver winger Markus Naslund that gave Naslund a concussion.

In the March 8 game, Bertuzzi followed Moore around the rink, skated up behind him and sucker-punched him midway through the third period of a 9-2 Colorado victory. Moore hit the ice face-first, and Bertuzzi fell on top of him.

"I think that type of [retribution] stuff doesn't have any place in the game," Moore said. "We have a tremendous game, and I think this incident has made the image of this game suffer, and that's unfortunate."

The incident quickly received media attention beyond the sports world, being covered by CNN and "The Today Show" as well as being the subject of a special half-hour show with host Brian Williams on MSNBC.

Bertuzzi apologized tearfully at a news conference within days of punching Moore, but Moore set the tone for a less emotional news conference Monday by starting with a slight joke.

"This is certainly not how I envisioned earning my first press conference," he said, smiling.

Other than a dime-sized red area on his right cheek, Moore's face has healed from the multiple cuts he received from falling to the ice. Moore did not know when he would begin rehabilitating his neck, although Colorado doctors estimated last week that Moore's recovery would take six to 12 weeks.

Moore received a minute-long standing ovation when he was introduced during the first period of Monday's game.

"The support back here in Denver since I've been back is unbelievable," he said at the news conference, adding that he has received cards and pictures from all over the world. "I've even received a bouquet of flowers from Kuwait."

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