Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mr Tortorella's forced sabbatical.

We don't know if there's an actual name for the tribunal of Monday that delivered a verdict on the John Tortorella case, so we're going to introduce yesterday's developments as coming from the newly created  Department of Coaches Safety.

From it, came Judgment Monday, as the NHL's top brass delivered a rather stern suspension, sending the Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella off to banishment for the next fifteen days.

 "Mr. Tortorella's actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the League," ... "Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game." --  NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell speaking to the events of Saturday night.

The suspension providing for a period of quiet reflection for the Canucks coach, that will  leave Vancouver to play the next six NHL games with but fond memories of Saturday night and maybe a lesson plan or two for the temp, assistant coach Mike Sullivan to work with.

For those that somehow have not been made aware of the Saturday night cage match at Rogers Arena, a thumbnail refresher, the Canucks head coach quickly looked over the Calgary Flames line up pre game and raised a suspicious eyebrow.

His review of it all suggesting that the starting five for the Flames were a collective not particularly known for their fancy skating, more to the point, when Bob Hartley pulled into Vancouver it was as if he had decided to bring the travelling cast from a remake of Slapshot.

Such well known play makers as Brian McGratton and Kevin Westgarth, appeared set to take an opening face off. Though no doubt in Tortorella's mind, skating, would be limited to a simple one step, two step, throw em down affair.

Faced with such an apocalyptic vision, the Canucks coach, put together his own crew, sent them out to protect the home turf and as The The once put it, Armageddon Days are here again...

The fireworks were quick from the puck drop, two seconds in a donnybrook not seen often of late and one that rekindled visions of the epic battles of the eighties featuring the Nords/Habs, Habs/Bruins or Flames/Oilers was there on the closing act of the CBC's tribute to Canadiana, Hockey Day in Canada...

Once the officiating crew had restored order, assessed the expulsions and left the timekeeper to call Staples for more parchment, the hockey would resume, all be it minus a few players.

Included among the banished young Kellan Lain, making his NHL debut in front of the parents, who would watch as all of those early morning trips to minor hockey tournaments through the years finally paid off, for all of two seconds.

The game moved forward, with a lots of space on the bench and the ice time of a bag skate for most that remained and with the following 19 minutes and 58 seconds a passage of time that featured  an undercurrent of tension that lasted through the first period.

The Ill will carried over into the now infamous hallway incursion, where Tortorella, having been denied a vein popping toe to toe conversation at the benches, took his complaints to the door of the Flames dressing room.

More than any of the previous anarchy, it was that rush to the door frames of the bowels of Rogers Arena that landed Tortorella in New York on Monday.

The afternoon hearing determining that the Canucks coach had brought embarrassment to the game (a theme not universally shared on the West Coast where there was some thought that Mr. Hartley had a fair share of the responsibility)  and for his actions would be denied pay and contact with his team until February 2nd.

For many that weighed in over Sunday, the amazing visuals out of the West Coast struck a familiar chord, past grievances between the two coaches carrying on like grudges carried on through the centuries.

For some. the arrival of the Tortorella explosion was deemed to have been something that was destined to be, the only surprise it seems being, what took so long.

From the old acquaintances or interested observers, memories of the past came to mind.

Fighting the Flames was just Torts being Torts
John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL for antics after Canucks-Flames brawl
Vancouver Canucks' John Tortorella just did what NHL coaches do in fight filled game against Calgary Flames
Suspension looms for Tortorella after sparking brawl
Harsh words send message to Tortorella

For those new to the Tortorella watch, the Saturday night hostilities were a case of old time hockey at it's best, or maybe it's worst.

From the British Columbia side of the Rockies...

Saturday Night was the Real Heritage Classic
Fists Fly and tempers flare as Canucks take shootout win over Flames
John Tortorella faces league discipline for storming Flames' dressing room
Bieksa won the face-off: On the absurdity of the Canucks and Flames
Canucks' teachable moments from Saturday's Flames rumble
Tortorella faces a suspension, but Hartley shouldn't be able to skate away undisciplined
The Goonies brawl over shadows Canucks' 3-2 shootout victory over the Flames

A somewhat different perspective on the eastern side of the divide

Hartley maintains he's innocent in the aftermath of Saturday's line brawl
Flames coach Hartley discusses brawl with Canucks
Spezza couldn't believe old truculent mate McGrattan played peacekeeper
Malarchuk found himself at centre of dressing room melee
Fight Night between Flames-Canucks

Post suspension; the comments have continued to flow, Saturday night's mayhem holding a shelf life of 48 hours and counting.

Canucks coach John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL for fanning Flames
Canucks players support suspended Tortorella: He's had our back
Canucks turn to Mike Sullivan as new bench boss after Tortorella suspended
Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL
Canucks night at the fights: Turning point or pointless?
Flames react to Hartley's $25K fine for sparking Saturday's melee in Vancouver
Decision to send Westgarth out for faceoff costly for Calgary Flames head coach
John Tortorella gets a raw deal from the NHL

The events of Saturday seem to be pulling the Canucks players together to circle their wagons, something required after a horrid trip to California and Arizona.

The banishment of the coach providing for the instant classic twitter feed of #freetorts which quickly delivered up the requisite posters and tee shirts that we imagine will be seen quite prominently at Canucks home games through until February.

It also provided Keith Olbermann with yet another opportunity to ensure that a vacation to British Columbia, probably won't be something to make plans to take for a century or so.

Saturday night, Bob Hartley lit the fuse, Tortorella carried the dynamite through the arena, with the explosion crossing the continent to echo in the offices of the NHL.

The finally tally of the flashback to the past, leaving Tortorella suspended the six games for a total of fifteen days, Hartley fined 25,000 dollars and the Canucks to acknowledge the punishment, while still supporting the head coach.

For Hockey, what's left it seems is to try and explain it all in the larger picture of a puzzled American audience, who often can't figure the game out at the best of times.

Where it all leads to in the post Olympic rush to the playoffs remains to be seen, but for many Saturday night may one day be viewed as the pivotal moment for the Canucks season.

It may not be right on many counts, but in a game played in an emotional state, how the Canucks respond to the events of the weekend could shape the focus of the team through to the final game of the regular season.

For a team that was having serious problems finding itself in January, Saturday night may very well be the moment when the purpose and sense of mission to the season finally arrived.

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