When John Tortorella took over the head coaching gig of the Vancouver Canucks in the summer, you probably wouldn't have thought it would take until game no. 50 of the season for him to really blow up at something. But that's what happened on Saturday night after full-on line brawl erupted two seconds after the opening face-off with the Calgary Flames.
Incensed at the starting five Bob Hartley put on the ice to begin the game, Tortorella tried to get into the Flames' dressing room at the end of the first period, an action that, according to CBC's Elliotte Friedman, will earn him a hearing with the NHL Monday in New York.
Tortorella will be suspended. The NHL simply has no choice, says Friedman:
You can't have team personnel charging into the opponents' dressing room area. In fact, the league owes one of its most fearsome fighters, Brian McGrattan, a huge thank you for preventing an escalation of this conflict. McGrattan kept calm throughout a potentially explosive situation, holding back both Tortorella and Calgary assistant Clint Malarchuk from doing something they'd really regret.
The NHL, which has asked CBC for all video from the hallway camera that captured the event, frowns on coaching/management off-ice confrontations.
Rule 46.8, "Fighting Off the Playing Surface," specifically deals with this, reading, "Whenever a Coach or other non-playing Club personnel becomes involved in an altercation with an opposing player, Coach or other non-playing Club personnel on or off the ice, shall be automatically suspended from the game, ordered to the dressing room and the matter will be reported to the Commissioner for further disciplinary action."
What was Hartley's explanation for starting that specific five?
"Those guys are playing well for us," he said afterward. "They got us a goal last game. Obviously we're not scoring many goals. We had absolutely zero intensions there. Those guys are playing hard for us. We're a disciplined hockey club. As far as I know, they were the home team so they had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice."
That was a popular sentiment going around after things calmed down. It the Canucks put out their non-goons, that doesn't happen. But Tortorella said he wasn't going to put any of his star players, like Henrik and Daniel Sedin, in harm's way with the likes of Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan on the ice.
"I see the starting lineup. I know the other guy across the bench and it's easy for people to say put the Sedins out there and it's deflated," Tortorella said. "I can't put our players at risk that way. With the lineup that he had, I'm not going to put those type of players at risk and that's what ensues.
"I'm not proud of it. I've apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don't feel great about it at all, especially Lainer [Kellan Lain, who was making his NHL debut]. That's my biggest mistake was putting Lainer in that lineup and I'll kick myself forever not having someone else there. But I'd do the same thing again if it came that way because I cannot put anybody else out there not knowing what's going to happen and knowing the other guy across from me."
(This wasn't the first opening face-off line brawl Tortorella has been a part of.)
When asked by Friedman post-game about the hallway altercation, Tortorella shut him down.
"I'm not speaking on it. I'm not going to go there."
Tortorella is no stranger to being disciplined by the NHL. You'll recall in 2012 when he was fined $20,000 and an undisclosed amount in the span of three months for post-game comments. His comments won't get him in trouble this time, but his actions likely will make him a little lighter in the wallet and potentially watching a game or two from the press box. It also wouldn't be shocking if Hartley is dinged much like Ron Rolston was in the preseason for his "player selection."
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