Vancouver head coach John Tortorella has been suspended 15 days — covering six regular season games — for his actions during Saturday’s game against the Flames, the league announced on Monday.
“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,” said NHL hockey ops VP Colin Campbell in a statement. “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’s suspension is retroactive to Jan. 19 and runs through Feb. 2. According to the NHL, he is “not permitted to have any interaction with his club prior to, during or after games.” He will miss games against Edmonton, Nashville, Phoenix, Edmonton (again), Chicago and Winnipeg, eligible to return for a Feb. 3 date against Detroit.
The Canucks and GM Mike Gillis issued the following statement in response:
“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.
“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.”
It’s worth noting this is the second time Tortorella’s been suspended by the league. He served a one-game ban during the 2009 playoffs for throwing a water bottle at a fan.
This latest incident occurred during the first intermission of a wild game, which began with a line brawl two seconds into the contest and culminated with Tortorella trying to go after Flames head coach Bob Hartley between periods — this after Tortorella spent much of the first yelling at Hartley from the bench.
There were 150 penalty minutes assessed to both sides (81 to Calgary, 69 to Vancouver) by the time the contest was less than five minutes old.
“I’m not proud of it,” Tortorella said afterward.
The crux of the issue was with Hartley’s player selection to start Saturday’s game — putting out Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan — and Tortorella feeling the need to respond (by starting NHL penalty minutes leader Tom Sestito.)
Earlier today, a report from The Province claimed Westgarth was sent out to start the game to “make something happen.” If true, that would contradict the story that Hartley told after the game regarding his choice of starting players.
“Those guys are playing well for us,” Hartley said of Westgarth, McGrattand and company. “They got a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.”