The National Hockey League has no choice but to suspend John Tortorella.
The head coach of the Vancouver Canucks lost his temper and dignity, once again, on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames.
The well-known fiery coach exploded shortly after the puck was dropped in the late night game during Hockey Day in Canada on CBC.
After Bob Hartley, head coach for the Flames started a tough guy line of Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth and Blair Jones — a line that has never been together this season — Tortorella rebutted with a line of Kellan Lain (playing in his debut) Dale Weise and Tom Sestito with defenceman Kevin Bieska taking the opening face-off.
Then the fireworks began — a line brawl just two seconds into the game.
Eight players were given game misconducts by the referees, as they should have been.
As the players scrapped and threw knuckles for no reason on the ice, Tortorella was seen screaming f-bombs directed at Hartley and the Flames bench.
Not once did Hartley look at Tortorella or engage in the verbal abuse that the Canucks coach was dishing out.
Hartley should be fined for his choice in players, like Buffalo’s then-coach Ron Rolston was after he put John Scott on the ice against Toronto’s top line in the pre-season.
Hartley isn’t innocent in this melee although he tried to act that way in his post-game interview. He has to know there is a $10,000 fine or more coming for his decisions.
The smaller problem the NHL will have is who Tortorella decided to put on the ice and how he acted on the bench.
As the home team, the Canucks had last change and decided to put out whomever they wanted. Tortorella could have put out his skilled players and use that to the team’s opportunity but chose his goons.
The bigger issue the League will have his how he conducted himself during the first intermission when CBC cameras caught Tortorella attempting to charge into the Flames dressing room area.
In the video, McGrattan held back Tortorella and Calgary assistant coach Clint Malarchuk from engaging in their own fistfight. Irony that a fighter remained calm when all hell was breaking loose.
The NHL has asked the CBC for all the video from the hallway camera, as it is against the rules.
Rule 46.8, “Fighting off the playing surface” states: “whenever a coach or other non-playing club personnel becomes involved in an alteration with an opposing player, coach or other non-playing club personnel on or off the ice, shall be automatically suspended from the game, ordered to the dressing room and the matter will be reporter to the commissioner for further disciplinary action.”
It is no secret that Tortorella has anger issues — from questions at a press conference, calls by officials, ringing cell phones and beat reporters.
However, when the Canucks brought in the Boston native, he even admitted his reputation needed work and vowed to improve it.
It hasn’t improved. Tortorella has the same temper that many got tired of in New York.
The only answer for the NHL is to punish him for doing something insanely stupid. He should be embarrassed. The Canucks should be embarrassed. The players battled hard for a 3-2 shootout win, but their volatile coach overshadowed that.
The NHL has announced that the coach will have an in-person hearing with the League on Monday, which will determine his fine or suspension.
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