NEW YORK (AP) – Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi, whose blindside punch left Colorado’s Steve Moore with a broken neck, was reinstated by the NHL on Monday.

Bertuzzi was suspended for the final 13 regular-season games of the 2003-04 season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. His banishment continued throughout last season’s NHL lockout, which kept Bertuzzi from playing in the World Cup of Hockey last September and the past two world championships. He also was barred from playing in any European league last season.

Bertuzzi and Moore met separately with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for Bertuzzi’s reinstatement hearing on April 26. The Vancouver right wing needed the commissioner’s approval before being allowed back into the league.

“I find that the appropriate discipline to be imposed for Mr. Bertuzzi’s conduct on March 8, 2004 is the suspension that has been served to date,” Bettman said in a statement. “While I believe that Mr. Bertuzzi must be held accountable for his actions, I do not feel it is necessary or appropriate to delay the issuance of this opinion.”

The suspension cost Bertuzzi $501,926.39 in salary. He is due to earn more than $5.2 million from the Canucks in the upcoming season.

As per terms of his criminal probation, Bertuzzi will not be permitted to play in any game in which Moore is an opponent. Moore is an unrestricted free agent after not being re-signed by the Avalanche.

Moore’s Denver attorney, Lee Foreman, didn’t immediately return a call to The Associated Press.

Bettman said in his summary statement, that consisted of 10 pages and nearly 5,000 words, that Bertuzzi’s behavior will be watched closely this season.

“While I believe that reinstatement of Mr. Bertuzzi at this point in time is appropriate and consistent with a fresh start’ for the 2005-06 season, I want to make it clear that any future acts by Mr. Bertuzzi involving a review for possible supplemental discipline will require an in-person hearing,” Bettman said.

“If discipline is to be imposed, Mr. Bertuzzi should understand that it will be more severe than might otherwise be the case for similar acts committed by other NHL players.

“Mr. Bertuzzi is on notice that he will be held strictly accountable to a higher standard than other NHL players for his on-ice conduct during the 2005-06 season.”

Moore might never play again because of Bertuzzi’s vicious blow in Vancouver. The NHL waited over a year to hold Bertuzzi’s hearing because of the lockout. Bettman waited nearly four more months to announce his decision to let him onto the ice.

Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely following the hit. Moore was left with a broken neck, a concussion and no guarantee that he’d still be a professional hockey player.

With the Avalanche ahead 8-2 in the game, Bertuzzi grabbed Moore from behind, punched him on the side of his head and then landed on top of Moore, driving his head into the ice. The bloodied Colorado player was removed on a stretcher.

The attack was seen as retaliation for a hit Moore put on Vancouver star Markus Naslund that left the Canucks captain with a concussion and sidelined him for three games.

Bertuzzi first asked for his reinstatement hearing last December, around the time he pleaded guilty in a Vancouver court to criminal assault and was given a conditional discharge.

After facing up to 18 months in prison, he was given a year’s probation and sentenced to 80 hours of community service.


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