It all began on February 16th, 2004. I'd just finished watching the Leafs get burned by the Boston Bruins, 5-2, in a key divisional match-up, and I was eating dinner with my dad at the Casey's near the Air Canada Centre. Ends up there was a Vancouver-Colorado game, another important divisional matchup, that had just ended, and the highlight wasn't the score but a borderline hit by Colorado enforcer Steve Moore that forced superstar winger Markus Naslund to spend the night at the local hospital.
Cue up March 8th. My roommates and I, all of us sports fans, had decided to make watching TSN and Sportsnet our nightly ritual, and that night was no different. Fleeting by among the trade rumours, finalized deals and box scores was the 8-2 score that the Colorado Avalanche had thrashed the Vancouver Canucks by, and the ephemeral highlight of Vancouver power forward Todd Bertuzzi sucker punching Steve Moore.
Yes, the same Steve Moore who had sent one of Bertuzzi's best friends to the hospital on February the 16th.
I can't remember details because it was all so dreadfully meaningless to us at the time. One of my friends happened to be a Canuck fan and, being an Oiler fan, I believe our conversation following those highlights were along the indicatively hollow lines of "Heh. Vancouver sucks."
But then I get the National Post (which, I'd like to mention, manages to somehow get to our doors, published, printed, and distributed, by 2 am), and the Bertuzzi punch makes front page news.
Hockey had come under fire.
The beautiful game that, in the last three years, I have come to love; the game that I some day wanted to be a part of, and wanted a job in. It was all crashing down.
It was being...