The NHL reacted quickly to John Tortorella’s antics from Saturday night, handing down a 15 day suspension to the Vancouver Canucks head coach. The league flew Tortorella across the continent Monday morning for an in person hearing at their head office in New York, where they suspended him for the second time in his coaching career. He will miss 6 games in those 15 days and is to stay away from the team for all practice and other team meetings. In the mean time, assistant coach Mike Sullivan will run practice and act as head coach for the Canucks.
“Mr. Tortorella’s actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the League,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game.”
While the league doesn’t agree with the actions Tortorella took, many of his players have gone on the record to stand up for their coach, “I think it shows how passionate he is and how much he cares about his team,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who took the opening faceoff that led to the on ice brawl Saturday night. Also team management released a statement pledging their support for the coach; “We respect the decision made by the National Hockey League today to suspend John Tortorella for 15 days from Sunday, with no contact with the team for six games,” Mike Gillis said. “We would also like to acknowledge our organization’s full support for John and we look forward to having him back behind the bench soon.”
As the team has struggled recently, many have speculated that the incident Saturday night stems from a push by the coach and management to change the way the Canucks are viewed around the league, and it seems this is a view shared by the players as well. “No matter who you talk to in this (dressing) room, everyone knows (Tortorella) is changing the culture of this team,” said Zack Kassian who is one of the players that was brought in by GM Mike Gillis to create an edge to a team that for years has been viewed as a soft one.
The suspension for Tortorella should not be viewed as having anything to do with the on ice incident Saturday night. Where the coach crossed the line was when he went to confront the Flames dressing room after the period had ended. This was not a heat of the moment thing like Patrick Roy’s shinanigans in the season opener for Colorado. This happened 30-40 minutes later after both sides had a chance to cool down. It is something the NHL wants to make sure does not become common practice. Many accept that the blame for the on ice brawl is as much Bob Hartley’s fault as it was Tortorella’s, as a result the league fined the Flames head coach $25,000 as well.