The hammer of justice was swift and unfeeling in the case of John Tortorella and his ill-advised outburst Saturday, as the NHL suspended the Canucks coach 15 days – or six games – for attempting to storm into the dressing room of the Calgary Flames, while calling Tortorella’s actions following a start-of-game line brawl “dangerous and an embarrassment to the league.”
NHL vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell didn’t completely allow Bob Hartley off the hook, levying a $25,000 fine on the Flames head coach because the league was holding him responsible for the acts of Kevin Westgarth. In an unlikely move, the Calgary enforcer started the game and, according to Campbell, “attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent.”
But clearly, Tortorella was the focus of the majority of the league’s wrath, and rightly so. Had he merely let things be after the eyesore line brawl that took place just two seconds into Saturday’s game, he could have moved on and been right back working to get his team into the playoffs. Instead, his display of grandstanding dragged the game down and ultimately hurt his team. Because now, his Xs-and-Os expertise will be out of the picture. It’s the equivalent of a team cornerstone player taking a selfish major penalty at the start of an important game or playoff series.
“Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high,” Campbell said. “Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game.”
Tortorella’s suspension is retroactive to January 19 and extends until Sunday, Feb. 2. He is banned from maintaining any contact with the team during his suspension.
And in many ways, he’s fortunate he only received six games. A player leaving the bench in the NHL gets an automatic 10-game suspension, so Tortorella got off lucky.