Former Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore had been seeking $68 million in damages from NHL player Todd Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks. Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
Steve Moore and his lawyer have confirmed that the former NHL player has accepted a settlement agreement in the lawsuit involving Todd Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks over an on-ice attack that occurred in 2004.
The NHL team and Bertuzzi's lawyer said last month that a deal had been reached, but Moore and lawyer Tim Danson didn't confirm it until Thursday.
Moore was seeking $68 million in damages in a civil lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2006. It had been scheduled to go to court on Sept. 8.
"This day comes with mixed emotions," Moore said in a statement. "These years have been very difficult for me and my family. The injuries I sustained in my rookie year, the years I spent trying to return to my NHL career, and dealing with the loss of my career and the ensuing legal case, have been long and trying experiences. While nothing replaces the loss of one's dream, I am happy my family will no longer be burdened by an unresolved legal case, and I am grateful to be able to move forward."
Danson apologized for not responding to media inquires about the reported agreement last month, saying it was his "legal opinion that there was no binding and enforceable settlement until the language of the settlement documents was agreed to by all parties."
The settlement marks the end of a 10-year saga through the Canadian justice system and pre-empts what could have been an invasive foray into the courts for the NHL.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman faced the prospect of testifying and being cross-examined under oath.
Danson may have grilled Bettman about what some see as an unspoken revenge culture in the NHL that may have led to the end of Moore's hockey career and changed his life beyond the game.
Moore, now 35, said in a March interview just a day before the 10th anniversary of the incident that the lawsuit was not so much about the money as being compensated for the loss of his dreams.
"I lost my entire career in my rookie year," Moore said. "I think any player put in that situation would do the same thing.
"I can't recover anything else. I can't recover my career, the experience of living out my dream from the time I was 2½ years old, of playing in the NHL."
His $68-million suit included a demand for $38 million in lost hockey wages and punitive and compensatory damages, plus $30 million for lost wages from a post-hockey career. Moore has a Harvard University degree, but claimed his post-concussion syndrome prevented him from getting work commensurate with an Ivy League education.
'Pay the price'
On March 8, 2004, Bertuzzi, then with the Canucks, jumped on Moore from behind 8:41 into the third period of a 9-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, driving Moore's body to the ice. Two more players piled on, one from each team. Moore lay motionless for 10 minutes before being taken off on a stretcher. He suffered three broken vertebrae and a concussion — and never played pro hockey again.
Bertuzzi later claimed that Vancouver head coach Mark Crawford said in the dressing room during that game that Moore must "pay the price" for a hit he had given to Canucks captain Markus Naslund in a previous game.
Naslund missed three games as a result of that hit, but there was no penalty assessed because the referee considered it a legal check. Neither was there supplementary discipline upon further review by the NHL.
Canucks forward Brad May alleged there was a bounty on Moore's head, and Bertuzzi reportedly called Moore a "piece of s--t."
Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm. He was sentenced in December 2004 to one year of probation and 80 hours of community service. He was also suspended by the NHL, and sat out 17 months in part due to the 2004-05 lockout.
In the eight years since the filing of the civil suit, it has been reported that the NHL had rejected Moore's disability claim unless he agreed to drop his suit. Other reports said that Bertuzzi had filed and dropped a counter-claim against Crawford, that Bertuzzi and the Canucks had a secret deal to share costs if they lost, and that, early in the civil matter, there was a settlement discussion.
Statement from Steve Moore
The legal case for the loss of my NHL career is over. I have accepted a settlement agreement which has now been finalized and signed by all the parties. This day comes with mixed emotions. I am extremely thankful for the compassion and encouragement of so many people over the past decade. These years have been very difficult for me and my family. The injuries I sustained in my rookie year, the years I spent trying to return to my NHL career, and dealing with the loss of my career and the ensuing legal case, have been long and trying experiences. While nothing replaces the loss of one's dream, I am happy my family will no longer be burdened by an unresolved legal case, and I am grateful to be able to move forward. I thank the fans and the public who have supported me so passionately and tirelessly, not just across Canada, and the U.S., but around the world – your support has meant more than you can imagine. I thank the people who supported me in this legal case; your courage, and integrity are an inspiration. I thank former Chief Justice of Ontario Warren Winkler for helping with this settlement. Finally, I thank my friends, and especially my family, for your unwavering love and devotion which kept me going over these last ten years. I look forward to continuing to bring more attention and resources to the prevention and treatment of concussions and other head and neck injuries in sport, through The Steve Moore Foundation. While my own hockey career was cut short, my love for the game has never diminished. Thank you.
Statement from Tim Danson, counsel to Moore
I apologize for remaining silent and not responding to the many media enquiries over the past two weeks concerning the settlement of this matter. I did not want to prejudice any possible settlement by making public statements. It was my legal opinion that there was no binding and enforceable settlement until the language of the settlement documents was agreed to by all parties and I was in possession of executed settlement documents. That happened today. Thank you.
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