Tortorella calls Kessel tweet, social media Team USA backlash 'self-serving'

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TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 16: Head Coach of Team USA John Tortorella gives instructions at practice during the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 16, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images)
Team USA coach John Tortorella gives instructions at practice during the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 16, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Getty Images)

TORONTO – Count USA’s brain trust as part of the group not amused by Phil Kessel’s tweet after the team’s loss to Canada last Tuesday.

General manager Dean Lombardi and coach John Tortorella were asked about Kessel’s tweet, along with some of the other social media criticism of the team, and both displayed dissatisfaction with how the Americans have been needled on the internet since they were eliminated from World Cup semifinal action.

“As far as the tweets, listen I like Phil. I really like him. But as I said, we need to take our medicine. I don’t get – we’ll take it from you guys, that’s part of our job and your job and we should. I just don’t understand players who have been in this situation, players who have played USA hockey, not only Phil but the others speaking out, to me it’s a little self-serving,” Tortorella said. “It doesn’t make USA Hockey look any better either. It doesn’t help the people doing it, either. I wish Phil – I just wish he didn’t say anything because it makes him look bad. It’s so easy to start chucking dirt when things go bad. We have some work to get respect back and that stuff doesn’t help.”

Lombardi was asked about both not picking Kessel for the team and Kessel’s decision to passive aggressively tweet his displeasure towards not being selected to represent his country at the World Cup.

“Part of that will be in my book down the road (on not taking Kessel), but let me say this. If you’re talking about Justin Abdelkader, Blake Wheeler, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Kesler, David Backes, I’ll take those guys any day, any day. Is that who you’re talking about? You’re going to have to play against those guys in a little while, but that’s basically the tradeoff. Those guys have big time heart and when I talk about caring, they’d be the nucleus of the caring and they compete and they can play for me any day,” Lombardi said.

On Wednesday, Team USA players were asked about Kessel and some of the other social media backlash.

“It’s disappointing. It’s almost to say that we were coasting or don’t care, weren’t representing our countries as well as we could have and for other guys that have worn the jersey, it’s disappointing,” Team USA forward David Backes said. “I understand there’s hard feelings if you weren’t picked for the team or if whatever, but the comments are, I think – as a team guy and as a guy that stands by my teammates, win lose or draw, it’s a little distasteful and aggravating but everyone’s got a Twitter account and you can have freedom of speech to say whatever you want and so be it. But those comments don’t get lost in the fray and those comments are there and have been read and I think will be remembered when whatever happens going forward happens going forward.”

The decision to leave Kessel off the roster has led to scrutiny towards the U.S. management. Kessel is one of the top American born goal scorers in the NHL but wasn’t picked for the team as the U.S. brain trust opted for a more physical, defensive-minded group. Through two games of the tournament Team USA was outscored 7-2 and was eliminated from semifinal contention after their loss to Canada.

“The one thing I will say, it was the No. 1 thing I want, give me 22 guys who care. That is where it starts. From there you build competitiveness, culture and everything else. If you don’t have 22 guys who care, you’re not going get this where to … I know we have the first part,” Lombardi said. “There were guys with tears in their eyes the other night and they were real. I will always remember that. Some of the texts I got from players yesterday, I will treasure them the rest of my life. That is good stuff. Those are things you don’t forget, even in failure. That part we got down. I told them I wish I had this group for a longer period of time, because I know we could have built that culture. But it didn’t happen.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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