GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  J.T. Brown #23 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 21, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Lightning defeated the Coyotes 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

J.T. Brown explains his criticism of Tortorella’s anthem stance


Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown has “no ill will towards John Tortorella,” but he does want to explain the tweet he published on Tuesday that was critical of Tortorella’s promise to bench any of his players that “sit on the bench for the national anthem.”

“I responded to a story on Twitter with my opinion and that was how I saw it,” Brown said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “He sees the situation through his reality and I see it through mine, as a black athlete in the NHL. I know I’m not on the United States World Cup roster, but I have had a chance to represent my country on other occasions. My Tweet was a hypothetical. What if I took a stance to promote awareness for one of the many injustices still occurring in our country and was punished despite there being no rule or law against it? My Tweet was a response to that question.

“I could have been quiet and just kept my opinion to myself, but I don’t want young minorities who love the game of hockey to think that what’s going on in America today is going unnoticed by the hockey community. I love America and thank the military for protecting our freedoms, as well as law enforcement for protecting and serving our communities, but that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that there is still racism today. I am glad my Tweet provoked a discussion, because we need to start having a conversation about racism if we want to work towards a better America.

“While I don’t plan on sitting during the national anthem, I will look for more opportunities to positively impact my community and bring awareness to racial issues.”

Tortorella, the head coach of Team USA at the upcoming World Cup, expanded on his stance yesterday.

“We are in a great country because we can express ourselves,” he said, per the Toronto Sun. “I’m not against expressing ourselves. That’s what is great about our country. We can do that.

“But when there are men and women who give their lives for the flag, for their anthem, continue to put themselves on the line, families that have been disrupted, traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries with these people, who give us the opportunity to do the things we want to do, there is no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you are trying to make a point.”

Related: Seth Jones has ‘no problem’ with Tortorell’s anthem stance

Seth Jones has ‘no problem’ with Tortorella’s anthem stance

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 20:  Seth Jones #3 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on March 20, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Devils won 2-1.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

In the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, it wasn’t surprising that Blue Jackets and Team USA head coach John Tortorella made headlines yesterday when he said “if any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there for the rest of the game.”

Reactions to Tortorella’s remarks came quickly.

On Wednesday, Seth Jones — who plays for Torts in Columbus and, potentially, against Torts at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey — weighed in on what’s become a hot-button issue.

“I think that it’s fair,” Jones told Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “That’s [Tortorella’s] way of doing it, and obviously they’re comparing it to the whole Colin Kaepernick thing, but he’s got a right to believe whatever he wants.”

Jones, the highest-drafted African American player in NHL history, will represent Team North America at the tourney. He was acquired by Columbus from Nashville in a midseason blockbuster and proceeded to play 41 games under Tortorella last year, averaging a career-high 24:27 per night.

Jones reiterated to Fan 590 that he doesn’t take issue with his coach’s stance.

“I have no problem,” he explained. “You’re not going to see anything from any of us with Torts, so I have no problem with that.”

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, who is also African American, took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to share his thoughts on the matter:

Brian Burke, serving as a senior advisor for Team USA, told USA Today he respects athletes’ rights to “express opinions, vote, attend political rallies and make political contributions.”

But Burke also said “I don’t believe the field of competition is a place to make political statements.”

In somewhat related news, it looks as though Jones’ Team North America is closing in on a plan for its pregame anthems at the World Cup.

According to TSN, the squad will play both Canadian and American anthems before each contest.

After plenty of ‘disappointment’ last season, Tortorella hopes to lead Jackets back to the playoffs

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17:  Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Coyotes 7-5.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

John Tortorella has had success as a head coach in the NHL, but his last few stints behind the bench haven’t gone according to plan.

Tortorella, now 58, will have the unenviable task of turning around a Blue Jackets team that he helped guide to the fourth-worst record in the league one season ago.

Can the Jackets bounce back next season? Is Torts the right man to get this thing turned around? That remains to be seen, but getting the Jackets back on the rails won’t be easy.

“When you’re finished April 9 and you’re not playing in the real stuff (playoffs), I would think there would be some disappointment,”said Tortorella, per the team’s website. “I feel like I’ve let the organization down. I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to get this straightened out.”

In all fairness to Torts, Columbus was 0-7 when he took over for Todd Richards on Oct. 21. He led the team to a 34-32-8 record. This year, he’ll have the opportunity to go through camp with his squad, which should make things easier.

It’ll be interesting to see if the structure and gritty style that Tortorella deploys will eventually mesh with the players he has at his disposal.

The Jackets haven’t made many changes this off-season. Outside of the players they drafted in June, they really just added Sam Gagner in free agency. The boost Tortorella will be looking for might come from the farm.

The Lake Erie Monsters took home the Calder Cup in 2016 and several of the players from that team could make the jump to the NHL in 2016-17.

“Those guys took huge steps,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. “That gives them the type of experience they need to compete for an NHL spot and to make an impact on our team.”

Youngsters like Zach Werenski, Sonny Milano, Oliver Bjorkstrand and 2016 draft pick Pierre-Luc Dubois could be in Columbus come mid-October. Maybe a youthful spark could push the Jackets back into the playoff picture next April.

David Booth: Still tormented by Tortorella

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach John Tortorella of the Vancouver Canucks talks to media after his team lost to the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena on November 17, 2013 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)

Sometimes it feels like no one is safe from the wrath of John Tortorella.

There was the “absolute stupidity” that led to his lengthy suspension following that unforgettable locker room confrontation with Bob Hartley in 2014. He seems to relish opportunities to criticize players from other teams, particularly members of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s the sort of guy who inspires highlight reels of his “best” and saltiest comments:

The “fiery” coach freely admits that he could get along better with the media.

Long story short, Torts spews venom outward, but his own players encounter the bile as well. David Booth reminded us of as much on Thursday as he recalled his Canucks days:

Amusing stuff.

This seems like a decent excuse to take a trip down memory lane and look at Torts’ best/worst moments. (For the sake of keeping this greatest hits package under three discs, we’ll skip his long-ago Lightning days.)

In Columbus

Tortorella hasn’t been with the Blue Jackets for very long, yet there are rumblings here and there that he’s not gotten along with certain personalities.

Both the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen deny that there was a rift with Tortorella, yet the rumors were abundant. If nothing else, it’s clear Torts told Johansen that he felt he was out of shape.

Canucks catastrophe

Torts only coached the Canucks for 67 games, but it was a pretty disastrous time, even beyond the Hartley scream-down. Tortorella has also memorably clashed with Adam Oates (who said he could easily beat him up) and Peter DeBoer over the years, just to name a couple other coaches.

Benching Roberto Luongo during the Heritage Classic likely hastened his departure. Accurate or not, it was a little harsh to label Zack Kassian the way he did in public. There may have been issues with Alex Burrows and there were questions regarding whether Torts “lost the locker room.”

Oh, and remember his tirade toward Jannik Hansen?

Bumpy exit from Big Apple

Torts enjoyed a long run with the New York Rangers. Still, things ended in an even uglier fashion than you usually see when a coach exits a team.

Henrik Lundqvist denied calling for his firing, but reports indicated that multiple Rangers wanted him out. Things got weird with Brad Richards despite his assurances and he deflected questions about how he got along with Marian Gaborik. His back-and-forth with Carl Hagelin was pretty entertaining, too.

Sean Avery seemed to savor Torts’ firing the most, but that’s up to debate.


One can almost picture former Tortorella charges handing each other gifts like Johan Franzen “gave” to Gustav Nyquist in regards to Mike Babcock:

Maybe Booth will hand Brandon Dubinsky something similar, considering the rugged forward’s experiences playing under Torts for the Rangers and now the Blue Jackets?

(H/T to The Score for the Booth tweet.)

Report: Jackets add Shaw to Tortorella’s staff

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 23:  Head coach Davis Payne (C) directs the St. Louis Blues against the Colorado Avalanche as assistant coach Brad Shaw (R) looks on during their preseason game at Pepsi Center on September 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Columbus has reportedly found a replacement for Craig Hartsburg.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets have hired longtime NHL coach Brad Shaw to serve as an assistant on John Tortorella’s staff.

Shaw, 52, was one of two candidates interviewed for the position — ex-Minnesota assistant Darryl Sydor was the other — and is certainly the more experienced of the pair.

Shaw spent the last 10 years as an assistant with the Blues and, prior to that, had a brief head coaching stint with the Islanders, along with some AHL head coaching experience as well.

Prior to his coaching days, Shaw was a journeyman blueliner with nearly 400 games of NHL experience. He’s since transitioned into a bench boss that primarily works with defensemen, which will be important in Columbus.

The club has two key youngsters manning the blueline — 22-year-old Ryan Murray, 21-year-old Seth Jones — and could possibly have a third next season, as 18-year-old super prospect Zach Werenski looks to make the big club after winning the Calder Cup with AHL Lake Erie.