NHL Suspends Bertuzzi for Breaking Player's Neck

The NHL suspended All-Star Todd Bertuzzi (search) on Thursday for the rest of the season -- and perhaps beyond -- for sucker-punching an opponent, knocking him to the ice and breaking his neck during a game.

Bertuzzi's team, the Vancouver Canucks (search), was fined $250,000.

"This is not a part of our game, it has no place in our game and it will not be tolerated in our game," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Bertuzzi had no comment on the suspension.

Bertuzzi, 29, hit Steve Moore (search) of the Colorado Avalanche (search) during Monday's 9-2 victory by the Avalanche, coming up to him from behind and driving his head into the ice. He lay in a pool of blood before he was removed on a stretcher.

Moore is out for the season with a broken neck. He also had a concussion, deep cuts on his face and two broken vertebra, but his spinal cord and spinal nerves were not injured. He remained hospitalized in stable condition in Vancouver.

Prosecutors and Vancouver police are investigating. The NHL commissioner said he hopes police consider the league's action and decide against charging Bertuzzi.

"We believe we are adequate and appropriately policing our own game," Bettman said.

Bertuzzi, the Canucks' second-leading scorer, sat out Wednesday's game and will miss the final 12 games of the regular season, forfeiting at least $500,000. The suspension would amount at least 17 games if the Canucks, now in fourth place in the Western Conference, make the playoffs.

Bertuzzi's eligibility for next season will be determined by the commissioner. Bettman will take into account how Moore is recovering, NHL Vice President Colin Campbell said.

Avalanche President and General Manager Pierre Lacroix said in a statement that he believed the league "acted with a clear sense of what was fair for all parties involved. Steve Moore's complete recovery continues to be our main concern."

The league's longest-ever suspensions were 23 games, to the Boston Bruins' Marty McSorley (search) and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Gordie Dwyer (search), both in 2000.

In fining the Canucks, Campbell ruled that while the team did not encourage or condone Bertuzzi's action, it must accept some responsibility.

The league had warned both teams about retaliation for a hit by Moore on Canucks captain Markus Naslund on Feb. 16. Naslund suffered a concussion and missed three games.

"We felt they could have done more in this situation to control their players," Campbell said. "We don't feel they took the temperature down."

Canucks general manager Brian Burke said that he was shocked at the size of the fine and that the league should not blame the team. He declined to say whether he thought the suspension was fair.

But he said, "We're not expecting to walk out of here without a penalty. We understand this incident is not part of the game."

Bertuzzi issued an emotional apology Wednesday, saying: "These comments are for Steve: I had no intention of hurting you. I feel awful for what transpired." He added: "I'm not a mean-spirited person."

The incident marks the second time in a little over four years that police have looked into an on-ice hit at an NHL game in the city.

In 2000, McSorley was charged for hitting then-Vancouver Canuck Donald Brashear with his stick. McSorley was convicted of assault but was a spared a jail sentence. The NHL suspended him for a year, ending his 17-year career.