Prior to puck drop on a night when the Vancouver Canucks played the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena, Canucks coach John Tortorella was given the starting line up of the other team. Tortorella was put in a difficult position even before the game started. Flames coach Bob Hartley's starting line up consisted of muscle and goonery at it's highest level.
With Brian McGrattan leading the way, coach Tortorella did not want to match his top line of the Sedin's with the bottom feeders from Calgary. Instead he started tough guy Tom Sestito, Dale Wiese and Kellan Lane, who was playing in his first NHL game.
Immediately after the puck dropped, the entire sheet of ice became a boxing ring, with 5 fights breaking out. The result of the initial line brawl, 8 game misconducts and 2 - 10 minute misconducts on top of 10 fighting majors.
"Torts came in and told us that they're starting those idiots over there so we're going to match that and go with it," said Canucks Tom Sestito. "I knew right off the hop McGrattan was going to come after me."
Bob Hartley tried to say he had no intention of fighting when he put his fighters on the opening draw.
"Those guys are playing well for us. They got us a goal last game. We're not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there." Hartley said with a smirk on his face. "Those guys are playing hard for us. As far as I know they were the home team. They had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice. He decided who he puts on. It is what it is."
Tortorella didn't buy into that.
"I see the starting lineup and I know the other guy across the bench (Hartley) and it's easy for people to say 'Well put the Sedin's out there and it's deflated'. I can't put our players at risk like that. With the lineup that he had, I am not going to put those types of players at risk, and that's what ensues."
Tortorella went on to add that, "I don't want it in the game, but I have to protect my team, too. So all the pundits and all the people pissing and moaning about it, they don't have a clue what a locker-room's about and they don't understand the whole circumstance involved in that type of situation."
The NHL doesn't normally fine or suspend coaches who open a game with fighters, however, in a preseason game this year the NHL said Ron Rolston was fined for "player selection and team conduct" after putting six-foot-eight enforcer John Scott on the ice after a fight between Toronto's Jamie Devane and Buffalo's Corey Tropp. In its news release announcing the fine, the league said Scott "initiated an altercation" with Leafs forward Phil Kessel.
​It's not inconceivable to think Bob Hartley is in line for the same thing. He shouldn't miss any games due to suspension however.
The same can't be said for John Tortorella.
Torts went after the Calgary coach at the first intermission. He was in the Flames dressing room entrance yelling at the opposing teams leader. Flames players were pushing Tortorella away as Hartley continued down the tunnel to his dressing room.
"I lifted my head and there he was," Hartley said. "I just don't understand. I got out of there. I don't need to get suspended or fined. There is nothing to settle there. I just don't understand what was going on."
Hartley poked the bear. He woke the dragon. What did he expect would happen?
Tortorella is no stranger to a game starting with a line brawl. Him and still current coach for New Jersey Peter DeBoer had a screaming match after the Devils coach did the same thing as Hartley.
"I guess in John's world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can't do the same here," Deboer said to reporters. "He's either got short term memory loss or he's a hypocrite."
Tortorella has been contacted by the NHL and hearing is being set up. Expect a minimum 1 game suspension for the intermission dust up. Also expect a fine for Bob Hartley for his starting line-up.
In the end, the Canucks won in the shootout and the 2 points might just be worth more to them right now, considering they haven't had much luck in that column lately going 2-5-3 in their last 10 games. They have shown a fighting spirit and right now, that's a positive this team will take. Now we wait to see how this team responds with their leader's imminent suspension.