Tortorella to miss 15 days
VANCOUVER—The Vancouver Canucks prepared yesterday to play without their coach and captain for the foreseeable future.
Coach John Tortorella was suspended 15 days yesterday—a span that will include six games starting with tonight’s game in Edmonton.
Tortorella got in trouble for entering the Calgary dressing room area—in an apparent attempt to get at Flames’ coach Bob Hartley—after the first period of a game marred by a line brawl following the opening face-off.
Meanwhile, assistant coach Mike Sullivan, who ran practice and will take the reins from Tortorella against the Oilers, confirmed captain Henrik Sedin will miss the game due to an undisclosed injury.
Sedin’s absence will bring his consecutive-games-played streak—the second-longest among active NHL’ers—to an end following 679-straight games.
“His status is day-to-day but he will not play in Edmonton,” Sullivan said.
While NHL officials did not appreciate Tortorella’s actions, which were aired on “Hockey Night in Canada,” the players did.
“I think it shows how passionate he is and how much he cares about his team,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who was at the centre of the brawl.
“The other guy [Flames’ coach Bob Hartley], I don’t know what he was thinking.
“But I think you respect a coach more when you see that he’ll watch your back and you see how much he cares,” Bieksa added.
“We’re not just pawns out there.”
Bieksa was among the eight players—four from each team—who were ejected two seconds into the contest that featured 10 fighting majors and a total of 152 penalty minutes after both coaches put out their fourth lines first.
The punches started flying when Bieksa moved from his defence position to take the opening draw after he saw Kevin Westgarth, usually a penalty-prone winger, preparing to take the opening draw against Kellan Lain—a rookie whose NHL debut lasted only two seconds before he was ejected for fighting.
“I kind of put two and two together,” noted Bieksa.
“We heard their starting lineup,” he added. “We definitely knew what was going to happen and we were told to defuse the situation if we could.
“I saw Westgarth line up at centre and evened that match.”
Bieksa said Tortorella’s between-period actions occurred because the coach was upset that Lain, whose parents travelled from Oakville, Ont. to watch him play, had to fight on his first shift and the other bouts that occurred.
Zack Kassian, who has been in and out of Tortorella’s doghouse because of inconsistency, undisciplined play, and penalties, also praised him.
“No matter who you talk to in this [dressing] room, everyone knows [Tortorella]is changing the culture of this team,” said Kassian, who was on the bench during the brawl.
Tortorella indicated after the game that he put out his fourth line instead of his first forward unit because he was wary of potential injury to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who do not usually fight.
Winger Dale Weise, who was among the players ejected, said Tortorella did not tell the fourth-liners to drop their gloves.
“I agree with putting that line out just in case something happened there,” noted Weise. “I totally agree with [Tortorella] 100 percent.
“You can’t take a chance with a guy like that, Westgarth, and how tough he is.”