Despite settlement, Steve Moore never truly got his justice

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Steve Moore never wanted to settle.

He wanted his day in court. He required it, really — both personally and financially. He wanted his story told, the violent circumstances explained contextually and, possibly, understood better.

He wanted, in his own way, to peel back a layer of the underbelly of professional hockey — putting the apparent code and the game on trial. And then have others fully comprehend the pain he has endured — physically, cognitively, mentally — and the career that was stolen from him.

It happened 10 years, five months and 11 days ago. Todd Bertuzzi has earned more than $30 million since he sucker-punched Moore from behind, mounted his back, and pile-drived him to the ice in Vancouver.

But on Tuesday, 20 days before Moore versus Bertuzzi and the former owners of the Vancouver Canucks was to begin in a Toronto civil court, after years of delays, interruptions, legal manoeuvrings and an absolute lack of conscience on the part of the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association, a settlement was reached and agreed upon by all the parties involved.

Moore will get his money — and just how much is yet to be revealed, if it will ever be revealed. Was it $5 million, $10 million, $15 million, more? Until someone leaks something, that won’t be known.

But Moore will not get the day in court he so desired and often talked about needing. A confidentiality clause will mean he will cash a cheque, but not be able to explain how private detectives followed him, how others tried to undermine his credibility, how his career was taken and how the hockey community abandoned one of their own, how life with a severe concussion altered his world in so many different ways, how opportunities to interview key witnesses was met with delay after delay, how side deals were made, how the law conspired against the only victim in this rather sad affair.

And how, until now, justice delayed was justice denied.

Lawyer Tim Danson spent the past decade preparing for next month, all the while dodging legal bullets and land mines, forever playing the part of fullback, anticipating pressure, yet pushing forward, his legs forever driving.

This was not unlike a scout preparing for the NHL draft and spending years following players and then, on draft day, your team trades all its picks away. And all the work, though necessary, suddenly wasn’t.

The outcome was both good and bad. It’s good that it’s finally over, that there’s a deserved ending for Moore and his family, that he never had to listen to lawyers try and diminish the 69 NHL games he played. And he never had to listen to testimony by those who would have blighted the memory of the 68 previous games he had earned.

That would have been his own arbitration in a public forum, some praise and some humiliation, dulling the amazing accomplishments of the three brothers from Thornhill, who made their way to Harvard and then to professional hockey, one of them still playing. The feel-good story that hasn’t felt so good for most of the past 10 years.

The real winner Tuesday, though, was the NHL, not even named as part of the lawsuit (out of respect to Dominic Moore’s career) and many of its familiar faces past and present. Essentially, the league would have been on trial in the case they wanted to avoid in the first place. That’s why they contacted the Canucks prior to March 8, 2004, telling them that vigilante justice needed to be toned down, that it was time to move on after the injury to Markus Naslund.

The league said that.

Colin Campbell said that.

And then it spent most of the past decade running from Moore, making an embarrassing settlement offer, running interference of sorts for Bertuzzi, forever protecting its own backside.

A settlement for the NHL means this story goes away. There is silent closure. It means Brian Burke and Dave Nonis and Marc Crawford and Brad May didn’t have to testify and can breathe a little easier today. The mention of Moore these past many years made all of them uncomfortable.

It also means Bertuzzi, now without a contract, whose game never recovered from March 8, never had to explain his part, what he was told, what he thought, what he felt, what kind of adrenalin pushed him to do what he did. The Canucks and the former Canucks people have circled the wagons and run interference for each other.

They can stop their circling now.

Steve Moore didn’t get the $68 million the amended lawsuit called for. We don’t know what he wound up with, but we know it wasn’t that much. Hopefully, what he gets now, more than money, is peace of mind. He didn’t get everything he wanted. He never got his story told in full.