The line brawl that occurred between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks just two seconds into their game last Saturday was an embarrassment. There was plenty of blame to go around, and both coaches caught the ire of the National Hockey League for their actions that lead to the fracas. There were multiple opportunities for either team to make the smart choice and stand down, but instead chose to take the game of brinkmanship to its logically illogical conclusion.
The National Hockey League announced this afternoon that they are suspending Vancouver Canucks’ head coach John Tortorella for fifteen days without pay for his actions during and after the fight. Tortorella has one of the shortest fuses amongst the league’s coaches. When Bob Hartley chose to put his fourth line out to start the game, he was challenging the toughness of the Canucks, and baiting their coach. In response, after Tortorella unleashed a storm of words at Hartley, sent the Canucks fourth line out in response, and things began escalating immediately.
Two seconds after the opening puck dropped, a line brawl ensued between both teams. The match led to eight players being ejected and one hundred and forty minutes in penalties. (That’s rather extraordinary for a game that only lasted two seconds, and a lot of people ended up with a surprise amount of points in their fantasy leagues over that brawl.) At the end of the first period, a still visibly incensed Tortorella attempted to enter the Calgary locker room to continue the verbal barrage against Hartley and the Flames. (Which is what earned him his second career suspension as a NHL head coach.)
“I just don’t understand,” said Hartley of Tortorella’s actions after the game. “I got out of there. I don’t need to get suspended or fined. There is nothing to be settled there. I just don’t understand what was going on.”
Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 for his actions in the brawl. It was Hartley that set the stage for the brawl by putting the fourth line out to start the game. I’m a little surprised Hartley didn’t receive a larger fine for his actions. Granted, he didn’t go “Torts” like his counterpart, but he knew what he was doing baiting Tortorella into this scenario. The league sent a clear message with its punishments handed down today. Tortorella will miss six games, but be back before the Olympic break.
“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 league. We are 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.” – Colin Campbell, senior vice president of hockey operations