The most embarrassing moment of the John Tortorella era happened yesterday

Ask most Canucks fans what the most embarrassing moment of John Tortorella’s brief tenure as Canucks’ coach has been and one incident is bound to spring to mind: the hot-tempered coach’s Oldboy moment, when he attempted to punch his way through a hallway of foes to exact vengeance against Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley.

But not if you ask me. For my money, the most embarrassing moment came Tuesday,

On the eve of the Canucks’ first game of the post-Olympic stretch, Tortorella attempted to clear up a minor firestorm he engendered last weekend, apologizing for his (apparently unconscionable) position on the Olympic gold medal hockey game.

It was embarrassing. Far more embarrassing than a coach going Wolverine Berserker on his counterpart, in my opinion.

The remarks came Saturday during Canucks’ practice, when the media asked Tortorella who he was favouring: Canada or Sweden?

“I hope Sweden wins,” Tortorella said, “because I don’t think [Hamhuis] is going to play judging from what’s happened, and I don’t think [Luongo] is going to play. So I don’t give a **** right now because they’re not playing. I just want them back here. I hope Danny scores two goals and Edler gets three assists and Sweden wins so they come back feeling good about themselves because it’s going to help us. That’s all I’m concerned about right now.”

Wow. Such opinion. Very controversy.

Suffice it to say, this did nothing for me. But I was truly offended on Tuesday when Tortorella offered an apology. From the Vancouver Sun:

“If I have insulted anybody that certainly wasn’t my intention and I think all of you know that,” Tortorella said today. “But I did. It was a careless use of words and I should be more cognizant. I want to clear that up. It’s my privilege to be here and I think I did insult people. That’s the furthest thing from my mind. It’s a great country and … It was a careless use of words. That’s on me, I hope I can clear it up today.”

Tortorella reiterated that he feels privileged to coach in Canada.

“As I said when I was hired here, it is an absolute privilege to coach in Canada and I still feel that,” he said. “I love everything about it. I love the pressure, I love the scrutiny, all the second-guessing, all the stuff that comes with it. I couldn’t be happier.”

Good Lord.

John Tortorella, I speak on behalf of all reasonable Canadians when I say that I do not accept your apology. At all. I don’t accept it. I don’t want it. Nothing you said merits one.

Why in the hell would Tortorella be cheering for Canada? As he explained, he’s not coaching Canada, he’s coaching the Canucks. So his primary concern is that his players return healthy and, ideally, energized. Considering both Alex Edler and Daniel Sedin went to Sweden uncharacteristically unsure of themselves, with Daniel enduring one of the worst months of his career, and Edler still looking to regain the form he lost with his early-season suspension, it’s pretty understandable that Tortorella would like to see those two take their team on their backs, then come back emboldened by the reminder that they can do that, and do it again with their usual team down the stretch.

Furthermore, even without the professional motivation, why would Tortorella be cheering for Canada? He’s an American.

And not just some guy with a flag on his porch, either. Tortorella’s worked closely with USA Hockey over the years, and was disappointed not to be asked to work with them again this Olympics. He probably wasn’t all that happy when Canada eliminated the USA in the semifinal. He probably hates when that happens.

If I were an American hockey fan, I would loathe Canada come tournament time. Absolutely despise them. That’s how fandom works, and when you mix it with national pride, it’s even stronger.

And yet, here’s Tortorella, with two perfectly valid reasons to hope that Team Canada fails in the extreme, and he says so, perfectly explaining one of those reasons… and three days later, he feels compelled to apologize.

At the risk of sounding too Canadian to function: no, John, we’re sorry. Sorry you felt like you had to do that. Sorry you felt like your perfectly reasonable allegiances were offensive to us. Sorry we couldn’t see beyond our own allegiances to understand that, occasionally, other people don’t share them. Sorry we’re a bunch of touchy idiots.

Tortorella’s transition into the fallen hero from Oldboy is complete. A few weeks after fighting his way through a hallway, he was forced to cut out his tongue.

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17 comments

  1. v
    February 26, 2014

    “At the risk of sounding too Canadian to function: no, John, we’re sorry. Sorry you felt like you had to do that. Sorry you felt like your perfectly reasonable allegiances were offensive to us. Sorry we couldn’t see beyond our own allegiances to understand that, occasionally, other people don’t share them. Sorry we’re a bunch of touchy idiots.”

    perfect

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  2. biznow
    February 26, 2014

    Couldn’t agree more. I seriously hope management didn’t mandate this apology, that would be shameful. This fanbase can be so feline sometimes.

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  3. HeHughes376
    February 26, 2014

    Next we’ll be asking Kesler, Edler, Diaz, Weber and the Sedins to apologize for playing on their national team. Ridiculous that Torts (or someone in the org) felt any apology was needed!

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    • ikillchicken
      February 26, 2014

      Or better yet, why don’t we ask all the Vancouver fans who cheered for Keith, Toews, Doughty, Carter, Getslaf, Perry or Bergeron to apologize. Don’t they know those guys play for our NHL rivals?

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  4. DanD
    February 26, 2014

    One of the things I’ve loved about Tortorella is his candor. I really hope he doesn’t lose that because of Canadian media sensitivity. Totally agree with you here Harrison.

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  5. iain
    February 26, 2014

    Bravo, Harrison. Summarises my feelings exactly.

    This shouldn’t even have been a storm in a teacup, not even a storm in a thimble.

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  6. tj
    February 26, 2014

    Thank you for posting this. I agree. As I was trying to tell one hyperbolic-hysterical the other day, I don’t imagine any of the Canadian coaches or players in the US have been asked for their loyalty cards. The tables seem turned, and the Canadian-patriotist arrogance will become just as nauseating to the rest of the world. Some Canadian hockey fans — and the media — can be so embarrassing and juvenile.

    You know which team I found seemed to behave the most humbly, and cool: the Finns. Gad, I love those guys. At the risk of being shown the door by Can-hysterics: Go, Finns! ;)

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  7. Aaron
    February 26, 2014

    As a Canucks fan deep in the heart of Alberta, I can understand where Tort’s is coming from but you don’t stop cheering for your team just because you move. You take the flack and keep cheering. He’s American and a Canuck. He was cheering for America and “his” Canucks playing in the olympics. Yes Lou and Hammer were on team Canada but they were not playing. I don’t get the need to apolagize. I hope he keeps saying what he feels and doesn’t polish it. His passion and straight forward attitude were two of the things I was looking forward to when he became our coach. Some times political correctness makes me just shake my head in wonder.

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  8. Crying Wrestler
    February 26, 2014

    Wow, after only a few months of coaching in Canada and Torts has become more and more Canadian… constantly apologizing and saying sorry.

    I repect Torts because he’s honest, direct and seems to genuinely care about his team and players.

    The reality is that Torts isn’t winning any popularity contests outside of Vancouver and is probably cognisent that his public image & respect is at an all time low. He and/or Nucks management is likely being proactive to minimize as much controvery as possible to avoid even further negative press. Torts in part made his bed and there are still a ton of people that continue to dislike him. The fans that follow the team notice the change in Torts but the rest of Canada only get the TSN highlights and the CBC Canuck Hate. He’ll be treading on thin ice for a long time…

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  9. Bob
    February 26, 2014

    Does anyone know how it came about that he needed to apologize? He should have told whomever it was that thought an apology was necessary where to go. Stunning.

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  10. JP
    February 26, 2014

    What I don’t get is why in the past he’ll say ‘no comment’ to relevant questions, but when asked a stupid and such irrelevant question like the one posed that caused this controversy, he takes an obscene and detailed amount of time to answer it… quickly falling off the Torts bandwagon.

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  11. HAYLEY MYERS
    February 26, 2014

    I am so tired of a majority wins oppinion based society! !!! Thanks John for your honesty!!!! Your concern is our Canucks not team Canada!!!! We’re going to feed him to the wolves for being honest? Shame on anyone who demands his priorities be yours! We’re a dual citizenship family who all play hockey and everyone in my family is allowed to cheer for who they want and voice their oppinion with honesty!!!!! I love John’s honesty and colorful passion it’s what makes life fun!!!!
    Shame on anyone who is pissed at him, pathetic!

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    • Alex
      February 26, 2014

      !!!!!!!

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  12. shoes
    February 27, 2014

    Good blog…….I never even blinked when Torts made his “go Sweden go” thing followed by his explanation. Nor did I hate Kesler for cheering for the Americans in 2010.

    It all seems to natural…..like me cheering for Drew “divin’” Doughty when he has the Canadian Uni on. Note here: Doughty never ever dives when where the National Uni. Kudos Drew+!!!

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  13. dontpassjustshoot
    February 27, 2014

    Great blog! I saw his comments at the time and didn’t even register as an issue. When I saw the apology, I thought he must have gone back on the air later with something properly offensive. “Wait, it was CANADA that eliminated the US from the gold/silver game? … Well, I have two words for CANADA! – – ” It never occurred to me for a moment anyone could feel any offense at what he said. In all honesty, I was kind of half-and-half cheering for either Sweden or Canada myself. Mental.

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  14. J21
    February 27, 2014

    Well said. I don’t cheer for Canada in hockey in any event (they are the USA Basketball Team of hockey, sorry), but even if I did, I would have fully taken Tortorella’s stance as a Canuck fan.

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  15. Brian
    February 27, 2014

    There is too much apologizing for pretty much everything going on these days. It makes no sense for Torts to apologize for not cheering for a team his country’s team was playing against.

    I will disagree with one thing you said, though…as an American hockey fan (and a Canucks fan), I don’t “loathe” Canada in international tournaments. They are my second choice. I always want to see North American hockey triumph, and if it can’t be the USA, then I hope for it to be Canada.

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