A John Tortorella primer as Bruins get reacquainted with hot-headed coach

Shannon Keefe
April 24, 2019 - 2:28 pm
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Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella returns to his hometown on Thursday for Game 1 of a second-round matchup against the Bruins

Tortorella grew up in Concord, Massachusetts and was inducted into the Concord-Carlisle High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976. After graduation, he moved on to play collegiate hockey at the University of Maine. After three years as a crucial right winger for the Black Bears, he traveled to Sweden to play before returning to the States to play minor pro hockey.

Tortorella’s coaching career began with the AHL Rochester Americans and the ECHL Virginia Lancers before he eventually moved up to the NHL and began a successful career as head coach for multiple teams. 

In the 2000-01 season, Tortorella joined the Tampa Bay Lightning mid-season and was with the team until 2008. During his time as head coach, he transformed a team that was at the bottom of the league with a losing record to a team that won the Stanley Cup in the 2003-04 season. He won the Jack Adams Award that year for his efforts. 

However, Tortorella is notorious for being hot-headed and getting fined for his negative comments and short temper. During a postgame interview after a loss to the New Jersey Devils in the 2007 postseason, he told a New York Post reporter to “get the f*** out of here” on national television. He was later fined $10,000 for negative comments he made to officials in November 2007.

Tortorella became the head coach of the New York Rangers in 2009 and quickly became the winningest American-born coach in NHL history. He led the Rangers to their third-ever 50-win season in 2011-12 and became a finalist for the Jack Adams award for the third time. Involved in yet another altercation, he was suspended one game during that season for fighting with Capitals fans in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

In 2013, Tortorella was hired by the Canucks, but Vancouver would fail to make it to playoffs that year for the first time since 2008 and he lasted just the one year. He was also suspended for 15 games in January of that season after entering the opposing team’s locker room in an attempt to confront Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley.

Tortorella has now been the coach of the Blue Jackets since October 2015.  In 2016, he became the first American coach in NHL history to coach over 1,000 games. Later that season, he became the first American-born coach to reach 600 victories. In 2017, he won his second Jack Adams Award.

Most recently, Tortorella achieved one of his greatest coaching feats by helping lead his team to a four-game upset over the Presidents Trophy-winning Lightning. Now he'll look to take his team even further as he meets the Bruins, a team he's faced in the playoffs just once before, back in 2013 when his Rangers lost to Boston in the second round in five games.

We'll have to see if anything crazy happens in this series, but it's always a possibility when Tortorella is behind the bench.

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