Francesco Aquilini

Canucks owner threatens legal action after papers suggest he was behind Tortorella hire

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All that’s missing is a big top and bearded lady.

The media circus that is the Vancouver Canucks reached new heights on Monday, as reports surfaced of a legal letter sent from owner Francesco Aquilini to two newspapers — The Province and the Globe and Mail — that demanded retraction and an apology for articles claiming he was directly involved with the hire of head coach John Tortorella.

More, from the Globe:

 On Monday, Francesco Aquilini sent a Globe and Mail reporter a text message warning of legal action after the newspaper published a story discussing the family’s involvement in the hiring.

“I read your article today. You are a prick,” it said. Two hours later, a legal letter from the family’s counsel arrived by e-mail. It alleged defamation, sought a retraction and an apology, and threatened further action.

“The facts are that while the Aquilinis supported the decision of the General Manager, the hiring decision was his and not theirs,” lawyer Howard Shapray of Vancouver-based Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP wrote in the legal letter to The Globe.

And here’s the Province’s take:

The Aquilinis have sent legal letters to two local media members, requesting a retraction and apology for suggesting ownership had a significant role in hiring John Tortorella. (for disclosure sake, I’m not one of them)

A libel notice must be sent within six weeks of an alleged libellous statement, and is the first step if you want to sue a publisher for libel.

In writing, you need to let the author know you believe you have been libelled.

In this particular case, the Aquilinis claim the reports, one of which says Tortorella was hired by consensus, were erroneous and Tortorella was their general manager’s choice, and one which they backed.

They also claim that by writing they had a prominent role in the hiring it was designed to “incite ridicule for making bad or embarrassing judgments.”

Neither writer or publication, as of this date, are planning a retraction or apology and both stand by their stories.

Fun stuff.

Whispers of an “ownership hire” in Vancouver have been going on since the day Tortorella was brought aboard, though nothing was ever confirmed publicly. Former GM Mike Gillis previously said the hire was his call, but did throw out the idea he wasn’t happy with the direction the team was taking in an interview with Team 1040 last week.

“The running of this team is my responsibility and I really feel over the last couple of seasons we’ve chased goalposts that have been moving and got away from our core principles of how I want this team to play,” he said.

Aquilini, who turfed Gillis yesterday, will meet with the media at 1:30 p.m. ET today to discuss the dismissal — and reports suggest he could also introduce the club’s new leadership committee, which may or may not include ex-Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson or former Canucks captain Trevor Linden.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”