It's amazing how one stupid act can change the course for so many people.
On Monday night, I curled up in my favourite chair to cheer on the Vancouver Canucks as they took on the Colorado Avalanche in a battle for first place.
I had been looking forward to the game all day. Vancouver vs. Colorado has turned into quite the rivalry over the years, and when these teams hook up, you know something memorable is going to happen.
Well, something memorable did happen, but it's not a pleasant memory.
The game got out of hand early, on the scoreboard at least, with the Avalanche taking a 5-0 first-period lead. The Canucks tried to come back, but that fell by the wayside as Colorado eventually skated to a 9-2 win.
But that's when things got way out of hand. With the result clearly decided early, the Canucks and Avalanche engaged in numerous fights and apparent retribution for an earlier incident last month.
In a Feb. 16 game in Denver last month, Colorado rookie Steve Moore laid an open ice hit on Canucks' captain Markus Naslund. Naslund was injured and spent the next week recovering.
No penalty was called, when clearly something should have been done. The Canucks promised some revenge and seemed to get some on Monday night, winning several fights.
But with 11 minutes to go in the game, something happened that will be forever etched in my mind as a hockey fan and as a fan of the Canucks.
Canucks' forward Todd Bertuzzi lost his head. He chased after Moore trying to engage him in a fight. Moore skated away and Bertuzzi sucker punched Moore in the head. The two fell to the ice in a heap, with Bertuzzi's full weight pounding Moore onto the ice.
Moore was taken off the ice by stretcher. He's in hospital recovering from a fractured neck, concussion, facial lacerations and abrasions to his forehead, right cheek and upper lip.
Indications are Moore will make a full recovery, but his season is over.
On Thursday we learned Bert's season is over too.
Bertuzzi has been suspended by the NHL for the remainder of the season, which includes the Canucks remaining 12 regular season games plus the playoffs.
Now, I love the Canucks, and I am a major hockey fan. While I'm sorry to see Bertuzzi gone for the rest of the season, I can't sit back and condone what he did.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good hockey fight - I have all of Don Cherry's videos if you'd like some proof. But this wasn't a fight. Bertuzzi jumped Moore from behind. He crossed the line. Bertuzzi knows it, and now he's paying the price.
To his credit, Bert stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for his actions. He held an emotional press conference prior to Wednesday's game against Minnesota. Bert fought back tears as he offered a remorseful apology to Moore, his family, the Canucks and the fans of Vancouver.
Hockey, like most big-time sports, is an emotional game. Bertuzzi did a stupid thing, but he is human. We all have things in our lives that we're not proud of, I'm sure. But when it happens to a role model, someone hockey fans look up to, it hurts a little more.
As much as I hate what Bertuzzi did and the position he has put the Canucks in as they head towards the playoffs, I'm still a fan. I'm still going to be a fan of the Canucks, and I'm standing by Bert.
What I am hoping for is that the NHL starts to take a hard look at the game and puts in place standards of penalty rules for things like this so it doesn't happen again.
These types of acts can't continue in the NHL or in any sport for that matter. For the sake of the fans, the youngsters who play hockey and want to grow up to be the next Wayne Gretzky, the NHL has to make some changes.