NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NHL suspended Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella without pay for 15 days and six games on Monday for his conduct after a brawl between his team and the Calgary Flames.
Tortorella went to Calgary’s locker room at intermission following the first period Saturday night, which began with a handful of fights and four game misconducts per team.
“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,” NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in announcing the suspension. “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.”
Tortorella blamed Flames coach Bob Hartley for starting his fourth line, saying he couldn’t put star players Daniel and Henrik Sedin at risk just to deflate the situation. Hartley was fined US$25,000 by the NHL.
“We are holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames’ right wing Kevin Westgarth, who took the game’s opening face-off and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent—the Canucks’ Kevin Bieksa,” Campbell said.
This is the second career suspension for Tortorella, who missed Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference quarter-finals as coach of the New York Rangers for throwing a water bottle into the stands in Washington.
Tortorella’s suspension begins Tuesday night with Vancouver’s game at the Edmonton Oilers and runs through Feb. 2. He is not allowed to have any interaction with the Canucks before, during or after games during that time.
“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,” said Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis in a statement. “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.”
Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke didn’t react as positively to Hartley’s fine.
“I am perplexed by this fine,” Burke said in a statement released by the team. “I stand behind Bob Hartley completely in this regard and remain confident that he acted properly in every aspect of this game.”