New Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella will be back behind an NHL bench Thursday when the Columbus visits the Minnesota Wild. Before he coaches his first game, though, take a look back at five of the most memorable outbursts of his coaching career.
John Tortorella is officially back behind an NHL bench after inking a deal to coach the Blue Jackets, which means press conferences in Columbus just got a whole lot more interesting.
Though Tortorella has won a Stanley Cup, Calder Cup and made the post-season in all but four of his seasons behind an NHL bench, the 57-year-old coach is best known for his colorful personality which can lead to some pretty memorable moments when dealing with the media. Though his most successful season came in Tampa Bay as the Lightning’s bench boss, it was with the New York Rangers where Tortorella really got his reputation for having a fiery personality.
Here are the five of the most memorable outbursts of Tortorella’s career:
5. Set cell phones to silent
There are a few sides to Tortorella: he can crack wise, he can be serious and sometimes, when something irks him just right, he can get annoyed extremely quickly. One thing he doesn’t have time for? Cell phones.
One reporters phone rang during a press conference in the 2012 post-season and Tortorella’s head snapped in the direction of the ringer in an instant. From there, Tortorella’s focus was gone from the question and moved on to taking aim at the “ridiculous” ringing during his time with media:
4. Tortorella takes aim at Penguins’ Crosby and Malkin
Another gem from 2012 came when Rangers center Derek Stepan was sent flying after a knee-on-knee collision with then-Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. The hit resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct for Orpik, but Tortorella sounded off on the hit post-game:
It was an ugly hit, but Stepan was not forced to miss any action. Tortorella said he was interested to see what would happen with the league, but Orpik was neither fined nor suspended for the knee-on-knee to Stepan.
3. Tortorella defends his lineup decisions
When Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of his key contributors was Brad Richards. During the 2003-04 post-season, Richards scored 12 goals and 26 points in 23 games, had seven game-winning tallies and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
During the 2012-13 post-season, however, Richards was struggling mightily. Through 10 games, he scored just one goal and had seen his ice time slip to a fourth-line level. After the Rangers lost Game 3 of their second-round matchup with the Boston Bruins to go down 3-0 in the series, Tortorella made the decision to make Richards a healthy scratch.
When asked about the decision, Tortorella let the media know why he made the choice in his own, fiery way:
Richards would not get back into the lineup for the next game of the series and Tortorella’s stay with the Rangers would be short lived. After losing Game 5 and being ousted from the playoffs by Boston, Tortorella had coached his last game in New York.
2. “Have you ever fought before?”
The disagreements between Tortorella and New York Post reporter Larry Brooks weren’t frequent, but when they did occur, they were often big blowups. Take, for instance, this blowup from 2010, where Tortorella asks Brooks if he has ever gotten into a tussle himself:
There were many more instances, but the singling out of Brooks during the 2010 run-in is one of the most well known instances of Tortorella blowing up post-game.
1. Brawl between Calgary and Vancouver leads to suspension
Maybe the most infamous moment in Tortorella’s career is his reaction after the Flames and Canucks began a January 2014 game with a complete line brawl.
In the contest, Calgary coach Bob Hartley chose to start a lineup consisting of Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth, Ladislav Smid, Blair Jones and Chris Butler. In response, Tortorella iced Tom Sestito, Kevin Bieksa, Kellan Lain, Dale Weise and Jason Garrison. What occurred was an all-out brawl between the two teams, resulting in 142 penalty minutes before the game was even three-seconds old and ejections for eight of the 10 players involved.
Tortorella was left to stew for the entire first period, but at intermission, he headed straight for the Calgary dressing room to confront Hartley:
The result of the incident was a 15-day, six-game suspension for Tortorella.
“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,” the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said when the suspension was handed down.
Hartley was fined $25,000 for his role in the incident. Tortorella later apologized for the entire incident, saying it was embarrassing for everyone involved and said his suspension was deserved.