DENVER Wearing a brace from his chin to his chest, Steve Moore walked into a news conference Monday and said he doesn't remember the hit that knocked him out for the season and might have ended his NHL career.
The Colorado Avalanche forward still has a red welt under his right eye, but wore a broad smile while speaking to the media for the first time since Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi sucker-punched him during a game on March 8.
''I feel very fortunate to be able to be here today, to be able to walk in here,'' the 25-year-old Moore said before Colorado played Los Angeles. ''I don't know whether I'll be able to play again, but I remain optimistic. I'm more fortunate just to be alive and to take one day at a time.''
Moore waved to the crowd from one of the luxury boxes in the first period after he was welcomed back by the public address announcer. The fans gave him a standing ovation that lasted more than a minute and players from both teams tapped their sticks on the ice.
Moore sustained two broken vertebrae, a concussion and cuts on his face when Bertuzzi punched him from behind and drove his head into the ice. The hit was believed to be retaliation for a check by Moore in February that knocked Canucks star Markus Nasland out for three games.
Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs, and Vancouver police are looking into assault charges against him. He also must apply to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for reinstatement before he can play again.
Moore has not spoken to Bertuzzi and avoided questions about his punishment, but did say the hit was over the line.
''I think that type of stuff doesn't have any place in the game,'' he said. ''We have a tremendous game, this game of hockey, and I think this incident has made the image of this game suffer. That's unfortunate and I sincerely hope nothing like this ever happens again.''
Canucks general manager Brian Burke was glad to see Moore up and walking around.
''On behalf of the entire Canucks organization, I'd like to wish Steve a quick and full recovery,'' Burke said in a statement. ''I was pleased to see him looking better today and we hope to hear good things about his status in the near future.''
Burke said the organization wouldn't comment on the incident again until after the season.
Moore doesn't recall being punched or remember the 20 minutes before or after he was struck his first memory was lying in the medical room in Vancouver's arena.
''I can't explain how scary it is to wake up to a nightmare,'' he said. ''I'm playing a game and the next thing I know I'm lying in a room with medical personnel standing over me. I have a neck brace on and having my equipment cut off of me, and I am strapped down and really have no idea on what was going on. It was pretty scary.''
Moore is up and walking after leaving a Denver hospital last week, but still has limited mobility and has yet to start rehabilitation. He hopes to join the Avalanche on the road during the playoffs, but doesn't want to push too hard.
''Since that game in Vancouver, my main concern has just been to regain my full health and take one day at a time,'' Moore said. ''I am certainly anxious for my injuries to heal and I'm anxious to get going on the rehab and hopefully get back to playing.''
Moore said his apartment is filled with banners, cards and pictures, and he's received well wishes from across North America and places as far away as Germany and Australia.
''I've even received a bouquet of flowers from Kuwait,'' he said. ''So it's been pretty amazing and it's been very uplifting for me. It's been pretty powerful to know that this many people care.''
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