On Saturday night, a line brawl broke out at the start of a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames. In case you missed it, here is the video:
It started when Bob Hartley, the Calgary Flames head coach, decided to start his fourth line against the Canucks. John Tortorella, the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, decided to counter with his fourth line, and when the puck dropped the sparks flew.
When the fight first broke out, the video shows Tortorella yelling towards the Flames bench in the direction of Hartley. Hartley didn’t respond at all, so when the period ended Tortorella made sure Hartley knew how he felt and decided to try to get into the Flames locker room:
On Monday night, the the NHL reprimanded both coaches for their actions during the game. The league has suspended Tortorella 15 days — in which he will miss six games — for trying to enter the Flames locker room during the first intermission while Hartley was fined $25,000 for his role in the line brawl taking place. During his suspension, Tortorella will not be allowed any contact with his team before, during, or after games.
In a statement released by the NHL, Colin Campbell, who is the NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Player Safety, stated that Tortorella trying to enter the locker room “were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the League” while adding, “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.”
In a subsequent statement released by the NHL, Campbell also stated that the league is “holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames’ right wing Kevin Westgarth, who took the game’s opening face-off and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent — the Canucks’ Kevin Bieksa.” The fine was in accordance with By-Law 17.3 (a), which talks about conduct detrimental to the League.
The League did the right thing in this situation and got both punishments right. Hartley is completely responsible for the line brawl taking place. The visiting team submits their starting lineup before the home team each game, so when Hartley decided to start his fourth line he knew exactly what would happen. It wasn’t Tortorella’s fault that the line brawl took place, and one can make the argument that he did the right thing by sending out his fourth line instead of his first line and risking injury to his star players.
Having said that, there was no reason for Tortorella to attempt to enter the Flames locker room after the first period. The situation got out of control quickly and it could’ve gotten out-of-hand in an instant. It’s well documented that Tortorella has a temper and had promised the media that he would be more friendly towards them and keep his anger in check. While he’s done that so far up to this point, one can’t help but wonder if his past could start rearing its ugly head.