If You’re Sincere, You’re Still Sorry Three Years Later

Another example of how not to talk to the media … if you’re a newly traded athlete best known for a violent mugging of another player that resulted in a horrific, life-threatening injury.


Before Todd Bertuzzi had even arrived in Detroit after a trade the night before, he spoke by phone to Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. Albom asked him about the infamous incident in 2004 when Bertuzzi skated up behind Colorado rookie forward Steve Moore and attempted to bait him into a fight in obvious retaliation for a brutal cheap-shot punch Moore had delivered three weeks earlier to one of Bertuzzi’s teammates. Moore broke an unwritten hockey code of manhood by ignoring Bertuzzi and continued to skate up the ice. So Bertuzzi, in furious pursuit, unleashed a brutal sucker punch to the back of Moore’s head. Instantly knocked unconscious, Moore’s limp body was pounded into the ice by Bertuzzi. Then Bertuzzi fell on top of the downed player and proceeded to punch the helpless body. Not exactly a shining example of sportsmanship, even in the physical sport of ice hockey.


Moore was carted from the arena on a stretcher with three broken vertebrae in his neck.   


The shocking brutality of the incident, replayed endlessly on video, created a furor. For a while it looked like Bertuzzi would face criminal charges. As the magnitude of the damage he had wrought set in, Bertuzzi  held a tearful press conference and apologized to Moore and his teammates and family. By all accounts, Bertuzzi was sincere in his regret and genuinely remorseful.


Fast forward three years: Bertuzzi has been traded to the Detroit Red Wings and is asked about the incident for the umpteen millionth time: Does the notoriety bother him? His response:


“There’s nothing you can really do. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a forgotten thing. It’s three years ago. And you would think that people would let it go. But there’s always people in cities that want to hold on and want to criticize and bash you…. It’s something I deal with.”


Uhh … Todd, remember that it was you who was the goon who broke a young man’s neck, ending his career and very nearly killing him. You sound like you think you are the victim here. Pardon us if we need to throw up.


Perhaps what you meant to say was:


“I think about that night all the time. I never intended to injure Steve Moore but lost control in the moment. I’ve apologized to him and to his family, and I regret the pain I caused them. I wish I could undo it all but I can’t. So I’d prefer to talk about this season as I look ahead to the playoffs with my new team.”


One more thing, Todd. Make sure you mean it.


Lesson for corporate executives: if, God forbid, your company is responsible for a human tragedy, saying you’re sorry once isn’t enough. Even if you get tired of hearing the question, remember the victim(s). (Hint: It’s not you.). There is no statute of limitations on sincere sorrow.


- Jon Harmon


  1. david alexander says:

    This could not be said better. Clearly the tears 3 years ago were not for the victim, but only for the goon being in a bad situation.
    This is actually worse then the “nonapology apologies” that are so in vogue nowadays — “if {insert person or victim} was offended by my {insert stupid act}, then I am sorry.”

  2. Eugenio Mercurio says:

    This particular situation is a perfect example of never-ending crisis communication. Yes, the incident was three years ago, but how can Bertuzzi say it’s a forgotten thing? He nearly killed a man! I’m quite sure that it isn’t a forgotten incident to Steve Moore and his family. Communication in a crisis such as this one will never end because the event will always be remembered, so showing remorse one day and “trying to forget it” the next is unacceptable.
    The ending of this blog brought up a great point: An organization should ALWAYS remain sorry and constantly show remorse if human tragedy was involved, regardless of the time frame. Twenty years down the road, Bertuzzi should still be apologizing to Moore, and the same goes for all corporations involved in similar situations. A sincere apology should not carry a time limit.

  3. Rebecca Palmer says:

    Striking a person from behind is the most dishonorable and ruthless action a person can commit. If a person tries to avoid confrontation and you viciously pursue him, then there should be much greater consequences than Bertuzzi endured. He may be sorry, but he should show sincere regret though his actions to show the victim’s family and the public that he has not forgotten the incident.

  4. Becky Hart says:

    Where does the NHL fit into the apology equation in these instances? The debate about the place of fighting in the league, which flared up again following the recent fight between the Flyers’ Todd Fedoruk and the Rangers’ Colton Orr that put Fedoruk in the hospital, restarted the controversy in the media about what the NHL sould do in regards to brawls and the players’ safety. (Fedoruk already missed several games earlier this season after having major facial surgery following a fight.) Since this most recent event, Gary Bettman, the league’s commissioner, has come out saying the fighting is part of the game and that the league is still debating “whether or not it’s an issue.” The NHL needs to realize that one player putting another in the hospital is an issue and remember that it does affect public perception of its product. It needs to recognize that these fights are a problem and respond accordingly – maybe even with its own apology to the public.

  5. Travel Guy says:

    I think it’s a fine line he walks. He needs to continue to tread lightly for as long as he’s in the league, however.

Speak Your Mind