NEW YORK – The other shoe fell Monday in the NHL when Colin Campbell of the league’s discipline office handed down a suspension and a fine in the Vancouver-Calgary line brawl from Saturday night.
Vancouver Canucks Head Coach John Tortorella was suspended for 15 days, without pay, for his actions during the first intermission of the game. Tortorella had gone to the door of the visiting team’s locker room to confront the Flames head coach Bob Hartley.
“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,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “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.”
Tortorella’s suspension is effective retroactive to January 19 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 2. He will miss six games. He is not permitted to have any interaction with his Club prior to, during or after games.
In addition, Campbell fined the Flames’ Hartley for his actions as well.
Hartley was been fined $25,000 for his responsibility for the incident that took place off of the opening face-off of the match. The fine was issued in accordance with By-Law 17.3 (a) for conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League.
In issuing the suspension, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, Colin Campbell stated: “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.”
The entire series of incidents has opened a floodgate of emotions on all sides of the issue including fighting in the NHL and the staging of these line brawls. Whatever one thinks of fighting in hockey the incident this past weekend was seen as a staged mugging by distant observers. The most damning were the comments from baseball pundit Peter Gammons who referred to hockey as a “minor sport” in reaction to the videotape of the brawl.
Both Tortorella and Hartley have been disingenuous in their responses to questions regarding the incident Saturday. And neither has stood up to fully accept the responsibility for blackening the eye of the NHL. The “arms race” that was played out at the opening face-off was obvious to anyone watching the game. There was ample opportunity to defuse the situation before the brawl.
Before there the NHL has another “Rodney Dangerfield moment” there needs to be serious attention given to staged fighting before the sport is relegated to the funny pages.