Video: John Tortorella on Canucks. Watch the video below.
Well, at least John Tortorella didn’t bring a water bottle with him to throw at Bob Hartley when he invaded the corridor outside the Flames’ room looking for trouble — and the Calgary coach — after the first period of Saturday’s match in Vancouver that opened with a five-on-five brawl. READ MORE
The Vancouver coach, in so many ways Saturday night the same as the Rangers coach he was through his four-plus-season reign over Broadway until he was deposed following last season, will return to New York on Monday for a disciplinary hearing with NHL VP Colin Campbell.
And Tortorella will be suspended, all right, probably for a minimum of five games and a max sentence of 10, for his actions that could have incited a dangerous riot in a crammed hallway if any of the Flames’ players or coaches had gotten physical with him.
The line brawl and Tortorella’s subsequent theatrics on the bench as he attempted to at least verbally engage Hartley right then and there were eerily reminiscent of the scene at the Garden on Mar. 19, 2012, when the Rangers and Devils opened with a three-on-three line brawl.
And as he acted in that one as the home coach responding to the visiting team’s starting lineup, Tortorella may have been in the wrong on Saturday in a theoretical, ethereal environment, but in fact did what was necessary in the real world of an NHL that countenances fighting and does not in any manner reward teams who choose to unilaterally disarm.
The one in New York was the sixth and final regular-season match of the year between the rivals, who had previously engaged in eight fights in their season-long blood feud, including a simultaneous pair between fourth-liners two seconds into their game on Feb. 7 and one between enforcers three seconds into the match on Dec. 20.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer started a fourth line of Eric Boulton, Ryan Carter and Cam Janssen on Mar. 19. Tortorella countered with Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp and Brandon Dubinsky, but had defenseman Stu Bickel, who had never before taken a pro faceoff, move up for the draw against Carter to protect Dubinsky, whose nose was busted in a fight with the Devils center two weeks earlier in Newark.
Mayhem ensued. The six players on the two respective forward lines dropped their gloves. Tortorella moved down the bench to scream at DeBoer about his starting lineup. He later delivered an expletive-filled rant about the Devils coach in a behind-the-bench interview with NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire the network chose not to run during its broadcast of the match.
Tortorella didn’t attempt to navigate the hallways of the Garden to confront DeBoer at the intermission, but who knows, he likely would have been prevented from acting upon his own worst instincts by the body man the Rangers always had at his side and by a security force that would have protected him from himself.
Not so much in Vancouver Saturday night after he matched Calgary’s opening line of Blair Jones, Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth with Dale Weise, Tom Sestito and Kellan Lain. When the Flames chose noted pugilist Westgarth — who had taken two faceoffs all season and a total of nine in his four-year NHL career — to take the opening draw, Tortorella had Canucks’ defenseman Kevin Bieksa move up to replace and protect Lain, the Lake Superior State product who was making his NHL debut.
Mayhem ensued. Everyone on the ice other than the goaltenders dropped his gloves and fought. Tortorella moved down the bench and screamed at length at Hartley, who acted oblivious to it all and remained above the fray he essentially had initiated.
After the match had ended with a shootout victory, Tortorella talked about the need to protect his team while all too predictably verbally attacking straw men (“all the pundits and all the people who moan about it, they don’t have a clue what a locker room is like”) who might take umbrage at his tactics.
He would not talk about the incident between periods just as he would not talk about throwing the water bottle at a fan that time in Washington during Game 5 of the first round in the 2009 playoffs.
“Don’t push me,” he warned an inquisitive sort in Vancouver.
He won’t be able to say that in New York to Campbell after a Saturday night in which he no doubt pushed himself into a lengthy suspension — not for protecting his team, but for not being able to control himself or protect himself from himself. Which is to say, from Torts being Torts.
Hockey is a family of sports in which two teams play against each other by trying to maneuver a ball or a puck into the opponent's goal using a hockey stick. In many areas, one sport (typically field hockey or ice hockey is generally referred to simply as hockey.