Marc Crawford clearly doesn't enjoy looking down the barrel of a $38 million lawsuit. The former Los Angeles Kings coach, recently hired as a CBC Sports personality, has denied any role in Todd Bertuzzi's attack on Steve Moore in 2004, according to documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last month.
Moore and his family are seeking $38 million for loss of income and damages from Bertuzzi, the Vancouver Canucks and its then-owner Orca Bay. Bertuzzi has named Crawford as a third party in a lawsuit, claiming that his former coach commissioned the revenge attack on Moore (video). Crawford's response to Bertuzzi's accusations is nearly point-by-point, including:
• Bertuzzi claims that since Crawford was his coach, he was contractually obligated to "take direction from Crawford in all matters related to his role or function as a player." Crawford's defense to this claim:
"After being directed to get off the ice, Bertuzzi was on his way back to the bench when, suddenly and without warning, he turned around and skated back in the direction of Moore ... and attacked Moore. This was not done under any specific or general direction or encouragement from Crawford, was a direct disobedience of the instruction that Bertuzzi had been given from the bench to get off the ice and was a violation of Bertuzzi's duties which Crawford could not be expected to have reasonably anticipated, let alone control."
• Bertuzzi claims that Crawford "failed to exercise control over and caution his players against physical aggression toward Moore." According to Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail, Crawford sees it otherwise:
Crawford argued Moore was "not singled out as a player to be targeted for injury" and that he "gave no direction to the players in general and to Bertuzzi in particular, to retaliate for the injury to Naslund, or to engage in any conduct outside the rules against Moore." On the contrary, Crawford said, his players were "expressly instructed to execute a game plan which involved, among other things, maintaining their composure."
Obviously, Crawford needs to establish that he didn't order the Code Red; otherwise, he can add "defendant" to his ever-expanding résumé. But I believe Bertuzzi when he says Crawford wanted Steve Moore to "pay the price," just like I believe Dave Nonis when he said Crawford spoke about multiple Colorado Avalanche players. Crawford's complete denials don't ring true.
I just don't believe a coach asking for retribution envisions an open-ice punch to the back of head. It's like if Crawford has told his players to "take the body" and Bertuzzi responded by spearing a guy; can one rationally believe the comment instigated the action?
This isn't an exoneration of Marc Crawford. He wanted revenge, and he got more than he or the NHL could handle. But it's like a kid who shoots up his school after seeing "The Matrix": I can't blame Hollywood for how some knuckle-dragger chooses to interpret the message.
Ultimately, Bertuzzi is solely responsible for his tactics. And Crawford played an interesting trump card in his defense, claiming that Bertuzzi has already "admitted sole responsibility for his actions by, and in, his guilty plea to the criminal assault charge against him" and it would be "factually unfounded and legally impermissible for Bertuzzi to now seek to transfer any of the responsibility for his actions" to Crawford, according to the Globe & Mail.
"I don't think of myself as a criminal," he said, "but it's important for people to know that certain violent conduct has no place in hockey. I hope I can repair some of the damage I've done."
Where was Marc Crawford's name in that plea?