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.

Tortorella somber after elimination, columnist calls team’s style ‘unwatchable’

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella looks at the scoreboard in the final second of the third period NHL action against the Anaheim Ducks in Vancouver, Monday, April 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
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John Tortorella has a reputation for his fiery confrontations with the press. That was something he wanted to move away from when he took the head coaching job with the Vancouver Canucks, although that didn’t stop him from accusing his critics of ignorance when it comes to playing style the team is trying to execute.

But after the Canucks were officially eliminated from the playoffs courtesy of a lackluster performance against Anaheim, Tortorella wasn’t in the mood to come out swinging.

He conceded that the Canucks didn’t play well enough last night, but he otherwise politely refused to criticize them.

“It doesn’t do anybody any good right now to be critical,” Tortorella said.

After all, the damage is done. If Tortorella is to be fired this summer — and there’s certainly a contingent that’s pushing for that — nothing he says or does now is likely to change that.

Instead Tortorella talked about giving some of the team’s young players, like goaltender Jacob Markstrom, a shot. Essentially kicking off the team’s 2014-15 evaluation process early because these last games have about as much meaning to Vancouver now as training camp contests.

Meanwhile, the criticism of his performance continues to mount. Per Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher:

When Canucks coach John Tortorella called a time out early in the second period and assembled his troops, you have to wonder what he told them.

Whatever was said, it was clear this group is absolutely done with the fellow and any thoughts of bringing him back should be banished permanently because any attempt to sell this unwatchable crap next season will result in the total evacuation of Rogers Arena.

Just one more week of this and then the Canucks’ intentions will slowly start to become apparent.

Related:

Gillis says his comments weren’t a shot at Torts

Sedin backs Tortorella and staff: ‘We love playing for these coaches’

SedinTorts
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Canucks captain Henrik Sedin has jumped to the defense of embattled head coach John Tortorella.

“We love playing for these coaches, that’s the bottom line,” Sedin said, per the Vancouver Sun. “I mean, they put in a system where we know we can win each and every game.”

There’s been much discussion over the last few weeks about Tortorella’s job security in Vancouver. The Canucks have gone 5-12-1 and fallen to 10th in the Western Conference since his infamous attack attempt on Calgary coach Bob Hartley on Jan. 18 and, on Wednesday, GM Mike Gillis didn’t give Tortorella a vote of confidence when asked about the coach’s future in Vancouver.

“Again, that’s rumor and speculation,” Gillis said, per the Sun. “I’m not commenting on that because it just lends credibility to what’s out there with bloggers and all kinds of different people. So it’s unfair to comment on any future plans other than what we’ve already said, which is we’re trying to get younger, we’re trying to re-tool and we’re trying to do some things a little differently in the next 1-3-5 years.”

Gillis also declined to say if he felt Tortorella lost the Canucks’ dressing room.

As such, getting the captain’s backing has to be a good sign for Tortorella and assistants Mike Sullivan and Glen Gulutzan. Sedin is a well-respected voice in both the room and throughout the organization and despite going through a down year offensively — something many have pinned on Tortorella’s conservative playing style — Sedin insisted the players are the ones responsible for the poor performance this year.

“What’s been missing this year, so far, has been us making mistakes and it’s cost us. I think that has been our biggest problem,” he explained. “We have a lot of guys in here who care extremely much about this team.”

Gillis won’t say if Tortorella’s lost Canucks room

Mike Gillis
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Vancouver’s Mike Gillis met with reporters at the GM meetings in Boca Raton on Wednesday, and was decidedly tight-lipped about the future of embattled head coach John Tortorella.

“I am not going to comment on specific things about John,” Gillis said, when asked if Tortorella had lost the dressing room (per CBC). “It is unfair to him.”

The most telling part of Gillis’ scrum is that “no comment” really meant “no comment.” The Canucks GM was mum on both sides of the Tororella discussion — he refused to acknowledge rumors of a pending dismissal, but also refused to give the coach a vote of confidence.

Gillis did call the Canucks a team “in transition” and said there was plenty of blame to go around for the disappointing season. Gillis also suggested, curiously enough, that he still has the support of the Aquilini ownership group, which is important given there’s as much uncertainty surrounding Gillis’ future as GM as there is with Tortorella’s future as head coach.

Yesterday, The Province’s Jason Botchford wrote that ‘it’s obvious Tortorella can’t come back next year,” even suggesting Torts would be turfed prior to tonight’s game in Winnipeg.

Who exactly pushed for Tortorella’s hiring has always been a big question in Vancouver. If it truly was Gillis, it was an odd choice for a general manager who had always prided himself on a progressive hockey philosophy. Tortorella is more of an old-school coach, which is why many believe it was Canucks ownership that wanted him, not Gillis.

We wondered last week if Tortorella’s system was a major part of the problem in Vancouver, and certainly nothing we’ve seen since has made us stop wondering.

Tortorella wonders if Lack can handle going from Robin to Batman

Enthusiasts Enjoy The Exhibits At Super Comic Convention In London
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A day after a disastrous loss to the New York Islanders, some fans may dream that the Vancouver Canucks will find a hero. Maybe that explains why John Tortorella has Batman on the brain.

When asked about the challenges facing new No. 1 goalie Eddie Lack, Tortorella made a comic book comparison, as Cam Tucker reports for Metro Vancouver.

“It’s Batman and Robin. It’s easy to be Robin. When you become Batman it changes a little bit and we expect some bumps in the road with Eddie,” Tortorella said. “But I’ve seen him this year handle so many different situations … that this is where we’re going.”

(Does that make Jacob Markstrom Chris O’Donnell? Roberto Luongo is probably hockey’s Michael Keaton, so it might be fair.)

At least Lack, 26, is taking the rather odd comparison in stride. Then again, maybe it’s all about the cool car.

“I always want to be Batman. Just going try to do my best here and get back at it,” Lack said. “The Batmobile is pretty cool.”

A sense of humor might just be needed in this situation.