by pcoffey on 01/19/14 at 08:53 PM ET
Maybe John Tortorella lost it when he realized Bob Hartley had schooled him and made him look like a dope.
Maybe Tortorella just couldn't take Hartley standing on the Calgary bench looking as innocent as lamb.
Any way you look at it, Hartley won this one, even if the Flames lost the game to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night.
Icing your fourth line or enforcers to start a game isn't business as usual in the NHL, or Vince McMahon would be the commissioner. But remember, Brian Burke now runs the Flames and he is on record as wanting more truculence, and Hartley should be well versed in giving the boss what he wants by this point. Plus, Hartley is no stranger to having a truculent edge himself.
In the final analysis, the start of Saturday's game would have been met with a shrug by just about everyone if Tortorella hadn't added to the spectacle by going to the end of the bench to give Hartley a piece of his mind. Hartley was obviously not at all interested in owning a piece of his mind.
And when yaking at Hartley didn't work, Tortorella gave all those who love to crap all over hockey more to work with by making a dash to the Calgary dressing room. Talk about spectacle! I'm just glad I wasn't the last Flame off the ice after the first. That poor guy had the worse seat in the house for all the excitement and had to stand around until things finally settled down.
And you have to give credit to Brian McGrattan, who really could have ratcheted things up when Torts came calling. Pushing him aside made McGrattan the smartest guy in the hallway for the day. As for Clint Malarchuk going looking for Tortorella, cripes let's go make a bad situation worse!
It will be interesting to see what happens after the NHL hands down the inevitable suspension of Tortorella, and perhaps Hartley for his starting lineup -- remember Ron Rolston was whacked for doing the same thing with the Sabres before he got gassed. Will a memo will be circulated around the league ordering all those TV cameras out of the hallways?
"I know the other guy across the bench," Tortorella told reporters after the game. "It's easy for people to say, `Well put the Sedins out there and it's deflated.' I can't put our players at risk like that.
"With the lineup that he had, I'm not going to put those types of players at risk and that's what ensued. I'm not proud of it. I've apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don't feel great about it at all."
Look, emotions get the best of all of us from time to time, but people in positions of authority are expected to keep their acts together under pressure, guys like air-traffic controllers, soldier, police, firemen, and even hockey coaches. Like it or not, after Tortorella saw who was starting for the Flames, he made a decision to put muscle against muscle and we saw the inevitable line brawl. The officials got things under control, penalties were assessed, and live goes on. Like it or not, this wasn't the first time we've seen this in a game and it won't be the last.
Hartley's postgame comments were hilarious. If you put the enforcers in the starting lineup, you know what you're doing. Your boss wants a tougher team, so again, you know what you're doing, but Hartley's "surprise" was a laugh riot.
"I just don't understand," Hartley told reporters, sounding like the little girl with the curl. "I got out of there. I don't need to get suspended or fined. ... I just don't understand what was going on.
"As far as I know they were the home team. They had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice."
Very true. But Tortorella opted to escalate a bad situation and now he will pay the price.
"I'm not speaking on it. I'm not going to go there," Tortorella told the CBC's Elliotte Friedman.
That's OK, we saw plenty. In fact, we saw too much.
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About Iced Coffey
Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.