Canucks coach Tortorella suspended 15 days without pay

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella and forward Ryan Kesler in a shouting match with...

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella and forward Ryan Kesler in a shouting match with Calgary Flames players at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Jan. 18, 2014. (ANNE-MARIE SORVIN/USA Today)

Hosea Cheung, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 PM ET

VANCOUVER - From the intermittent silence to a lower level of intensity, the absence of John Tortorella was rather noticeable at Mondays practice.

While his team worked on the power play and the usual drills under assistant coaches Mike Sullivan and Glen Gulutzan, the Vancouver Canucks bench boss was in New York answering for his part in Saturday's antics.

After an in-person meeting with NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, Tortorella was handed a 15-day suspension without pay — meaning he'll miss the next six games.

By now, the clip of a fiery Tortorella storming the Rogers Arena visitors hallway and engaging the Calgary Flames on Saturday has made its rounds on the Internet, leading sports highlight packages and remaining the talk of the town.

Mount Torts finally erupted, and oh was it entertaining — if not somewhat embarrassing.

But his players don't see it that way. Instead, the intrusion into enemy territory during the midst of a heated battle seemed more like a show of chivalry — a general sticking up for his troops, a leader supporting his people. On Monday, his players returned the favour.

"I'm sure he regrets what he did, maybe he doesn't, but we're behind our coach 100%," Zack Kassian said. "We love John.

"He's changing the culture of this team and that's exactly what we wanted."

But there had to be consequences. Tortorella crossed a line, and broke rule 46.8 by being “involved in an altercation with an opposing player, coach or other non-playing club personnel on or off the ice.”

In his ruling Monday, Campbell added that the Canucks coach's actions were "both dangerous and an embarrassment to the league" and that he "failed in his responsibility to the game."

With Tortorella away, Sullivan took to the podium after practice Monday, but held back when commenting on Hallwaygate.

"Torts can be the guy that can talk about what happened there," said Sullivan, who was also in the midst of the fracas but hasn't heard from the league regarding disciplinary repercussions. "From my standpoint, it was making sure that Torts was going to be OK.

"His passion and energy is what has allowed him to have this success that he's had in this league."

The Canucks and Flames also engaged in a line brawl to open the game, resulting in the ejection of eight players. The stunning turn of events — and 178 combined penalty minutes in the first period — was the beginning of a night that saw Vancouver come from behind to win 3-2 in a shootout — their first victory in four games.

Even that opening two seconds drew plenty of analysis and criticism. Most of it was thrown Calgary head coach Bob Hartley's way for putting out his fourth line for the opening face-off — he received a $25,000 fine for doing just that — but some was directed at Tortorella as well.

Sullivan, though, came to his head coach's defence.

"Torts was trying to protect our players and our team," he said. "I was upset, as was Torts. We don't like to see our players be put in harm’s way and the game is a violent game as it is, and I don't think as coaches we need to manufacture it."

But while the fallout of that game continued two days later, the Canucks must now turn their focus to building on an important two points. The Edmonton Oilers play host Tuesday in a showdown that pits Vancouver against the lowliest squad in the Western Conference — and either Sullivan or Gulutzan will be in charge behind the bench.

With 31 games left in the regular season, it's another dud campaign for the Oilers. For Vancouver, it's about gaining ground on other Pacific Division foes.

"It's always a tough game against them," Alex Burrows said of Edmonton. "We say if you let them play and have some space and some room to make some plays, they are going to make you pay.

"We've got to make sure we play our game."

That is, without John Tortorella.


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