Thursday, August 11, 2005

This doesn't count, right?

--> Right now, I'm confident that the fact that tonight's Chargers-Packers preseason game doesn't count is a good thing. The interior of the Pack's offensive line is a mess, with seventh-round pick Will Whitticker a serious threat to start at OG. I'm not saying that Whitticker isn't very good, as the Packers have had a number of low-round picks turn themselves into solid linemen (Adam Timmerman, Marco Rivera, and Mark Tauscher come to mind immediately). The Chargers have a solid defensive line, and they have active, athletic linebackers. They'll give the Packers' running game fits when the first team is on the field. If they don't, it might be something you can consider a good sign for Green Bay.

--> On defense, watch the safeties. Rookie Nick Collins, a second-round pick out of I-AA Bethune-Cookman, starts with Mark Roman. Collins has been given LeRoy Butler's old number (36), something that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel felt was a big enough deal to do a story on. Butler was apparently first put off by the decision to give Collins his old number, but he has since relented, and he is apparently looking forward to giving Collins some pointers as he prepares for his rookie season. GM Ted Thompson loves Collins' athleticism, but athleticism doesn't make you a football player. Tonight is the first step for Collins in showing Cheese Nation that he can play the game a little bit.

--> In other news, Steve Moore is upset that "Thug Life" Todd Bertuzzi is being allowed to play hockey, while he will probably not be able to play at the start of the 2005-2006 season. Among Moore's comments:

It's difficult to see that he's (Bertuzzi) able to play again when I still have a long way to go, and not just in hockey, but with my health.

Listen. By no means am I condoning what Bertuzzi did. It's as bad as, if not worse than, anything you'll ever see happen in a professional sports event. Bertuzzi attacked with premeditation, and he was about to punch Moore in the back of the head (when he already had a broken neck) before Andrei Nikolishin intervened and blocked the punch attempt. If Bertuzzi actually hits Moore that second time, it could have killed Moore. So, yeah, please don't take what I'm about to say as condoning Bertuzzi's actions.

Move on. Not so much Steve Moore as the rest of us. Moore has every right to be upset. He says Bertuzzi still hasn't contacted him privately, something that should have happened the day after the incident. Even if Bertuzzi has tried to contact Moore, it really doesn't change what he did. Sometimes, an apology just isn't enough.

But we all should move on now. It's been 17 months. Bertuzzi will pay a debt to Steve Moore if Moore never plays hockey again, as he should. And he's paid his debt to the league, as determined by commissioner Gary Bettman. Have fun booing Bertuzzi at an arena near you. But enough is enough. The league isn't any better or worse having Bertuzzi back, and if his presence affects your hockey-watching habits, you weren't much of a hockey fan to begin with.

--> As for the decision itself, it seems to me that there is one aspect of this decision that is causing controversy among hockey fans (and the idiots that don't follow hockey but choose to talk about it when stuff goes wrong - I'm looking at you, Jay Mariotti). Bettman decided to give Bertuzzi credit for time served during the lockout. The obvious response is "Why should he get credit for serving a suspension when no one was playing hockey?". Bettman decided to credit Bertuzzi because he (Bertuzzi) wasn't able to play professionally last year. Canada didn't allow him on the World Championship team, and since the 2004 World Cup was an NHL-sponsored event, he wasn't allowed in that, either. Not only that, but the IIHF chose to honor the NHL's suspension, making it impossible for Bertuzzi to get a job playing overseas during the lockout, which literally hundreds of NHL players did.

While you might not agree with Bettman's decision, it is certainly a point that can be rationally argued. With that in mind, a 17-month suspension is certainly adequate, and it's time for Bertuzzi to resume his career. Of course, he'll do it under a microscope everywhere he goes. I hope he's prepared for that, because it'll be unlike anything he's ever experienced before. More than the suspension itself, the ultimate test of Bertuzzi as a hockey player will come as he returns and experiences the vitriol of the fans, and the baiting of agitators around the league. Honestly, I wish him luck. A player as skilled as Todd Bertuzzi needs to be showcased in this league. It's up to Bertuzzi whether he'll be showcased or made an example of once again.

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