Torts: ‘I think the players need to police themselves’

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Believe it or not, kids, there used to be a time in the NHL when the first question after a game that featured a dirty hit wasn’t, “How long do you think the suspension will be?”

Instead, it was more likely to be, “When do the teams play next?” Or, “Who do you think he’ll have to fight?” That is, if the offender in question hadn’t already been forced to answer the bell. And we stress the word “forced.” As in, didn’t have a choice; he was fighting, whether he liked it or not.

John Tortorella misses that era.

“I think the instigator rule takes out the honesty in the game,” the Canucks’ head coach said Saturday after his team beat Toronto, 4-0, in a chippy affair.

“I think the players need to police themselves. But when you put that instigator rule in, and you’re using all this supplementary discipline and all this crap that comes after, it needs to be taken care of right on the ice, and I don’t think you’ll have that stuff, the hitting from behind and the cheap stuff.

“We’ve taken too much of the game away from the players. The players are the ones that turn it into an honest type game, and we need to give that back to them. We never will, but we should.”

It is, of course, worth noting that Tortorella coaches in Vancouver, the same place where the infamous Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident took place in 2004. When players try to police themselves, sometimes things go wrong.

Clearly, though, Tortorella doesn’t expect the league to be the sole protectors of his star players.

“We talked about it,” said Tortorella. “If someone goes after the Sedins, other people have to step in. That’s part of the game.”

But what about the instigator rule?

“Guys are ready to step in, and we’d kill the penalty.”