Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Canucks Coach Tortorella Calls Brawl Biggest Mistake of His Career

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Canucks Coach Tortorella Calls Brawl Biggest Mistake of His Career

Article excerpt

Former Canucks coach Tortorella back in Vancouver

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VANCOUVER - He can chuckle about it now, but former Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella calls his role in a brawl against the Calgary Flames two years ago "one of the biggest mistakes I made during my career."

"It was a distraction at that point in time our team certainly didn't need," Tortorella said Wednesday during a Columbus Blue Jackets practice. "That's on me. That's embarrassing."

The Canucks play the Blue Jackets Thursday in Tortorella's first NHL game back at Rogers Arena since being fired in the spring of 2014 after just one turbulent year as Vancouver's coach.

The line brawl started just seconds into a Jan. 18, 2014 game. Flames' coach Bob Hartley started a lineup of tough guys and Tortorella responded with his own.

After the first period, a furious Tortorella shocked management and the team's owners by trying to get into the Flames' locker-room. Tortorella, who was prevented from getting at Hartley, was suspended for six games.

"As I always said, my heart was in the right place," said Tortorella. "I told my team before it happened, I apologized before I put that lineup out there.

"I knew it was going to happen. That may sound stupid but I thought I was protecting my team doing that. It was certainly one of the biggest mistakes I made during my career."

The incident was the beginning of the end for Tortorella in Vancouver. The Canucks were 2-4-0 while he was suspended and 2-7-1 when he returned.

Vancouver missed the playoffs with a 36-35-11 record for 83 points. The team won just 13 of its final 41 games and finished 25th overall. A lack of scoring haunted Vancouver all season. The Canucks managed just 196 goals, leaving them tied for second fewest in the league.

Being fired after just one year was a difficult pill to swallow for the man who won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay.

"It was hard," he said. "I think it takes more time than that for you to get your team concept to a team, for your team to understand you, for you to understand your team."

Tortorella admitted "it was weird' to return to Rogers Arena, especially walking down the same hallway to the visitors' room where he once was held back from throwing punches at Hartley. …

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