Todd Bertuzzi has agreed to a new two-year contract for $3.875-million (U.S.) with the Detroit Red Wings, which is a good thing if only for the fact he is personally on the hook for any damages awarded in the Steve Moore lawsuit.
The other major figure in the legal action that followed one of the most infamous on-ice attacks in NHL history, former Vancouver Canucks head coach Marc Crawford, is more fortunate. He is being sued as a third party by Bertuzzi, who played for the Canucks when he attacked Moore on March 8, 2004, but the team's insurance policy will cover Crawford for any damages and legal fees up to the limit of the policy.
A story in The Globe and Mail on Wednesday said any awards against both Bertuzzi and Crawford were covered by the Canucks' insurance policy. However, due to an exception in the policy only Crawford is covered.
And that coverage, according to a source with knowledge of the policy, only goes up to $10-million (U.S.) with another $1-million for legal fees. He is responsible for anything above that, as are the Vancouver Canucks, also named in the suit.
Moore is seeking $38-million (Canadian) in damages and lost income from Bertuzzi as a result of the attack. The former Colorado Avalanche player was left with several broken vertebrae and a serious concussion as a result of the attack, which ended his hockey career.
Bertuzzi is suing Crawford as a third party, arguing that his former coach encouraged him to attack Moore in retaliation for a hit Moore made on his then-teammate Markus Naslund in a previous game. The suit contends any damages awarded against Bertuzzi should be paid by Crawford, who denied he sent Bertuzzi out to get Moore. Crawford said in his statement of defence that Bertuzzi disobeyed his instructions to come off the ice before he attacked Moore.
While it is clear there is an exception in the team's policy, the reason is not clear. Some involved in professional hockey say that while acts of negligence are covered, criminal or willfully violent acts are not. Others say the exception covers all player-versus-player incidents because there are simply so many of them, ranging from routine physical play to accidental and intentional encounters that can leave one player seriously injured. One source familiar with the policy said insurance companies do not want to get into the tricky business of either writing policies to take all the variables into account or facing constant payouts for damages.
Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson, said Wednesday that the lack of coverage should get the attention of every professional hockey player.
"All of the money Bertuzzi earns in his career is exposed and he has to pay his own lawyer," Danson said. "This sends a strong message to all players."