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(Daniel Mears)
(Daniel Mears)

Usual Suspects

Moore - Bertuzzi trial would make for riveting TV Add to ...

If NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy Bill Daly hate the media spotlight they're getting in the Phoenix Coyotes' pantomime, just imagine the exposure they'd endure should Steve Moore's civil suit in Ontario against Todd Bertuzzi (over the infamous 2004 assault on the Colorado forward) be televised. As the Bertuzzi assault hit its seventh anniversary this week, the possibility of a televised trial has been raised.

It would be riveting TV for the number of people who, like Mike Milbury, have questions about the purpose of fighting (in Moore's case one punch from Bertuzzi) in the NHL. Imagine the scenes. Bettman on the witness stand answering for "The Code", the NHL's unwritten law of retribution that's governed the sport for a century or more. Daly debating the lost income suffered by Moore when Bertuzzi ended his career with a broken neck. Brian Burke (then GM of Bertuzzi's Vancouver team) explaining his efforts to quell the lynch mob mentality that overtook his team.

Would the networks agree? Usual Suspects called CBC senior counsel Danny Henry to ask if the people's network will make application to put TV cameras in the court for the civil trial. After all, CBC (like the Globe & Mail) has often pushed for greater media access in legal cases. A recent judge's decision in B.C. has allowed cameras in court for lawyers' summations in the polygamy hearings going on that province.

The short answer: With no trial date set (and the possibility of a settlement) this issue has not been addressed yet by CBC. Complicating matters, says Henry, is the 1974 Ontario law that stipulates that both parties and witnesses must agree to allow cameras into their dispute. "Even though the facts were made public in the criminal action (Bertuzzi plead guilty to assault charges in 2004) some witnesses or lawyers might feel intimidated by cameras," explains Henry.

Moore's lawyer Tim Danson says he had no comment from Moore on a televised trial, which is expected to get a date next month. But it's fair to say that airing the incident once again on TV would be less embarrassing to Moore than to the league which formerly employed the Harvard grad. Danson might even get Bertuzzi to try on his hockey glove. "If the glove does not fit..."

Dollars And Sense: Speaking of Bettman's latest mission to put the paddles on faltering Phoenix, remember that the league is expected to announce its new U.S. TV package within the next six weeks. Now ask yourself, for which city would NBC or FOX or ESPN add zeroes on the rights cheque? Winnipeg or Phoenix? Take all the time you want.

New Man In Town: CBC Sports has filled the gap left by the departure of former vice-president Scott Moore by splitting his responsibilities between Julie Bristow (production) and American newcomer Jeff Orridge (properties), who has been the COO at charity Right To Play the last four years. Orridge was formerly a marketing/ branding whiz at Mattel, USA Basketball, Reebok and Warner Brothers with a record that includes some of the early work on the USA Dream Team of NBA stars at the Olympics.

But the announcement of his hiring precipitated a chorus of "Who dat?" from sports TV executives unfamiliar with the product of Harvard. Orridge is, to put it mildly, an unknown quantity in Canada's close-knit TV sports world. But the New York City native (he's been in Toronto for four years) is not fazed. "My strength is in rights negotiations, anticipating trends, building partnerships," he told Usual Suspects. "I think I'm in optimal position to manage our goals going forward."

With communications giants Rogers and Bell systematically buying up properties, there was concern that Moore's successor might officiate over the closing of the lights at CBC Sports. That was a legacy no one would want and a number of prominent names took a pass on the opportunity.

But Orridge is taking a positive approach. "We see nothing but blue skies ahead," he said. With a relationship to Gary Bettman that goes back to the NHL commissioner's days in the NBA in the 1980s, Orridge feels he knows the landscape well enough to create a place for CBC is the crowded NHL rights market. He starts April 4.

Safety First: An unconscious Max Pacioretty splayed upon the ice of the Bell Centre after being crushed against a stanchion by Zdeno Chara is decidedly not the TV image the NHL wants as it tries to finalize a new TV contract in the United States. For former NHLer Georges Laraque, a TVA analyst, the scene summoned the image of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili fatally striking his head against a post at the Whistler sliding centre during the 2010 Olympics.

We'll leave Chara's culpability to others to decide. But two unreported stories bear mentioning. First, the NHL Players Association has to be about the only union that doesn't make workplace safety a primary issue. Former executive director Bob Goodenow often stressed the NHLPA's first goal was to negotiate collective agreements for its members. Concerns about visors, unrelenting boards and stanchions like the one that hurt Pacioretty get lost in the macho creed of the NHL player.

Second, government workplace safety officials regulate working conditions everywhere in the arena except the playing surface. When it comes to the safety concerns of the rink, they suddenly go mute. Why? Is an NHL rink not a workplace? When contacted for answers, the response is typically that the hockey people are the experts on hockey safety. That would make them the only industry we know of to receive such a dispensation from the law.

Cinking Feeling: Talk of NHL teams moving is everywhere, says Twitter meister golfer Stewart Cink. on his @stewartcink account. "On my last flight the two guys behind me were talking about how the Thrashers should move to Canada. A near on-board security incident." Imagine how Gary Bettman feels.

Golf Legend Passes: Finally, we were remiss in not noting the passing of CBS golf TV pioneer Frank Chirkinian, the man who created the template for golf on the box. While Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were defining the sport on the course, Chrikinian (nicknamed the Ayatollah for his no-nonsense approach) was giving the sport its indelible restrained look on the tube. Jim Nantz, CBS's golf anchor, told the PGA Tour website this year. "He invented it. He took a sport that no one knew how to televise and made it interesting. He brought the Masters tournament to life."

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