It’s crazy to think Todd Bertuzzi is still able to play hockey at 40 years old. Most players his age have called it quits and moved on to the next stage in life, well unless you’re Jaromir Jagr. Big Bert feels he still has some gas left in the tank and as a big fan myself, I hope he can give it a go one more time. His time with the Canucks will be remembered the most and what we may forget is that he helped bring the spotlight back to Vancouver.
Struggling in Long Island and not exactly getting along with management, the beginning of superstardom happened in February 1998 when Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe were traded to the Canucks for Trevor Linden. What seemed like the destruction of a franchise, and to a degree it was, it was a blessing in disguise. Bertuzzi brought his big frame, smooth skating and feather light hands to a Canucks team that needed a reboot.
Bertuzzi would emerge as a top line player early on in Vancouver and eventually was put together with star winger Markus Naslund and Andrew Cassels. His angled drive to the net was something to be marvelled. Todd gave the Canucks a true power forward that the team really hadn’t seen in their lineup in ages. He set up shop in front of opposing goalies around the league and could not be rivaled in the NHL during the early 2000’s. When the “West Coast Express” made its inaugural start in January 2002, Big Bert took off.
Combined with center Brendan Morrison and all star Markus Naslund, the West Coast Express quickly became the NHL’s #1 producing line. With 82 goals, 100 assists and a sick ton of PIMs from 2002 through the end of the 2003 season, Bert hit his stride and everyone could see it.
Bertuzzi was a badass as well, and we all wanted in on his distant, grumpy interviews. Everyone wanted his jersey and we all liked how he just didn’t seem to care what people thought. His snarl was his trademark and he didn’t take crap from anyone, sometimes even the coach. I don’t know why Canucks fans adore the black sheep so much but they always seem to gain popularity.
What also can’t be forgotten is the ever visible “dip”. Ah yes, Todd Bertuzzi and his wad of chew. Not an interview went by that Bert wasn’t enjoying a dip. His answers to questions were slurred and short because no one wants to swallow that stuff. With his short answers came his short temper.
Multiple suspensions kept Bertuzzi from potentially winning the scoring title in 2002 after foolishly coming off the bench to help team mate Ed Jovanovski (not a real police officer) fight off the evil Scott Parker of the Avalanche which got him 10 games and possibly ended his career after the infamous Steve Moore knockout punch that had him suspended for a total of 20 games. He wasn’t a good boy that Bert but that only gave him more popularity with his edginess. He was a GIANT in Vancouver….foreshadowing.
Apparently Wayne Gretzky thought enough of Bertuzzi after the Moore incident that he invited him to Team Canada Olympic Orientation Camp in 2005 and eventually named him to the Canadian Olympic team for Torino in 2006. Should Todd have made that team? NOOOOOOOOO way, but we all wanted to believe he had changed. He hadn’t.
As great as the ol’ grump was, he could turn it on and off quite easily and when the off switch got flicked, no one knew when it would go back on again. He floated around the ice most games later on in his tenure with the Canucks and eventually both the Canucks and their fans had enough.
So we can really thank Bertuzzi on a few levels: He was traded for uber goalie Roberto Luongo in Florida and was later traded from Florida to Detroit for Shawn Matthias. See a pattern here? Matthias was traded to Vancouver last season in the deal that sent Roberto BACK to Florida. Crazy I know, but keep up I’m getting somewhere. Would Shawn Matthias have made his way to the Canucks via the Red Wings? Who knows? But he’s here and we like him a lot.
Really, the Florida Panthers deserve a lot of credit as well for helping shape the Canucks to what they are today.
As Todd Bertuzzi tries to get his last gasp of NHL air with potentially the Ottawa Senators farm team in Binghamton, we can think back to a truly zesty career and the many quotes, goals, hilites and low lites that made up Big Bertuzzi.
Thanks for the memories Todd. You had the moves of Lenarduzzi, you looked like the watoosi and night in and night out, you called the goalie Suzy. Heavy Eric you said it best, it’s called the Todd Bertuzzi.
Go get em 44.