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John Tortorella
Born (1958-06-24)June 24, 1958,
Boston, MA, USA
5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
175 lb (79 kg; 12 st 7 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shoots Left
Pro clubs Virginia Lancers
Playing career 1982–1986

John Tortorella (born June 24, 1958) is an American professional ice hockey coach and is now the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League (NHL). He is perhaps best known for his tenure as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning when he led the team to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship. Tortorella became head coach of the Lightning on June 6, 2001 and stayed on until his firing on June 3, 2008 after six and a half seasons, having compiled a 239–222–36–38 record. The firing took place four years after the team's Stanley Cup victory.

Tortorella has been credited by East Coast Hockey League founders Henry Brabham and Bill Coffey with coming up with the name for the league during a league meeting at a Ramada Inn in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At the time Tortorella was the head coach of Brabham's Virginia Lancers, but left the Lancers to become the assistant coach of the American Hockey League's New Haven Nighthawks before the ECHL's inaugural season in 1988.[1]

Early life

Tortorella attended Concord Carlise High School and is on the athletic Hall Of Fame Wall (1976). John's brother Jim Tortorella is also listed on the wall.

Tortorella, "The Paper Italian", played right wing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the University of Maine for three years (1978–81). He played along with his brother, goaltender Jim, who now serves as assistant men's coach for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. After college Tortorella played four years of minor pro hockey (1982–86) in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. During these years he skated with the Hampton Roads Gulls, Erie Golden Blades, Nashville South Stars and the Virginia Lancers.[2]

During his days in the ACHL, Tortorella briefly played with Oren Koules while with the Hampton Roads Gulls. The two later reunited in Tampa Bay, as Tortorella was the coach and Koules was one of the new owners of the Lightning.

Coaching career

Tortorella's coaching career began with the American Hockey League (AHL)'s Rochester Americans and the ECHL's Virginia Lancers. He was also an assistant coach for the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks and Rochester Americans, and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers. He won the Calder Cup with the 1996 Rochester Americans.

Tortorella is known for his outspoken nature—which has included criticizing his own players—and for his unusual system of regularly rotating goaltending duties. This method was used when the Lightning won their first Stanley Cup.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tortorella took over the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000–01 as a mid-season replacement. The team won only 28% (12 of 43) of its games to end the season, finishing last in the division. The following season, the team finished third in the division but had a losing record and did not qualify for the playoffs. The 2002–03 season marked Tortorella's first winning season as an NHL head coach, as the Lightning won the Southeast Division, losing to the New Jersey Devils four games to one in the second round of the 2003 playoffs. At the end of the season he was also recognized as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, losing out to Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire.

In 2003–04, Tortorella's fourth season with the team, the Lightning won their second consecutive Southeastern Division title. The Lightning were the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and defeated the sixth-seeded Calgary Flames four games to three, winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The team was in its eleventh year of existence. It was the last Stanley Cup won before the 2004–05 NHL lockout. A few days after winning the Stanley Cup, Tortorella would go on to win the 2004 Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

Before the start of the 2005–06 season – the NHL's first post-lockout campaign – Tampa Bay's starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin left the team due to the newly implemented salary cap restrictions. Tortorella was hard on Lightning goaltender John Grahame for much of the 2005–06. Grahame subsequently signed with the Carolina Hurricanes before the start of the 2006–07 season. Despite the Lightning winning a 2nd-team best 44 games in 2006–07, the Lightning did not win the Southeast Division.

He was involved in controversy yet again after game five of Lightning's series against the New Jersey Devils during the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. During a press conference in which Tortorella was visibly irate and disappointed, he told New York Post reporter Larry Brooks to "get the fuck out of here" live on CBC television, in response to Brooks' heckling.

Tortorella was fined $10,000 by the NHL for negative comments he made about the on-ice officials after a 4–3 overtime loss at the Atlanta Thrashers on November 19, 2007.

On March 11, 2008 with the Lightning defeat of the New York Islanders, Tortorella passed Bob Johnson as the winningest American born NHL coach with 235 victories. Peter Laviolette would later pass him in on November 7, 2008.

After his dismissal from the Lightning, Tortorella was an in-studio panelist on the NHL on TSN.

New York Rangers

Tortorella was named head coach of the New York Rangers on February 23, 2009, replacing Tom Renney, who was fired earlier that day. On March 17, he again became the American-born coach with the most wins in NHL history, this time surpassing Laviolette.

Tortorella was suspended 1 game by the NHL for an altercation with several Capitals fans behind the bench in the third period of Game 5 in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Replays show the fan clearly heckling Tortorella through verbal jeering, before Tortorella responded by throwing a water bottle at a fan before grabbing a stick from Aaron Voros and trying to spear the fan through a space between 2 panes of glass. He did not receive a penalty on the play despite the fact that NHL rules state any physical altercations with fans result in ejection from a game; however, the next day the NHL suspended him.

When Laviolette became coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009, the rivalry between the two teams became further heated with Tortorella and Laviolette being the American-born coaches with the most wins in NHL history.

United States national men's hockey team

John is also the current assistant coach of the U.S. National Men's hockey team,[3] replacing Peter Laviolette, which included leading the squad at the 2008 IIHF World Championship, where they finished sixth.

NHL coaching record

Statistics up to date as of April 9, 2011

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
G W L T OTL Pts Finish W L Win % Result
NYR 1999–2000* 4 0 3 1 - 1 4th in Atlantic (73 Pts.) -
TB 2000–01* 43 12 17 1 3 28 5th in Southeast (59 Pts.) -
TB 2001–02 82 27 40 11 4 69 3rd in Southeast -
TB 2002–03 82 36 25 16 5 93 1st in Southeast 5 6 .455 Lost East Semifinals
TB 2003–04 82 46 22 8 6 106 1st in Southeast 16 7 .696 Stanley Cup Champions
TB 2005–06 82 43 33 - 6 92 2nd in Southeast 1 4 .200 Lost East Quarterfinals
TB 2006–07 82 44 33 - 5 93 2nd in Southeast 2 4 .333 Lost East Quarterfinals
TB 2007–08 82 31 42 - 9 71 5th in Southeast -- -- -- -
NYR 2008–09* 21 12 7 - 2 26 4th in Atlantic (95 Pts.) 3 4 .429 Lost East Quarterfinals
NYR 2009–10 82 38 33 - 11 87 4th in Atlantic -- -- -- -
NYR 2010–11 82 44 33 - 5 93 3rd in Atlantic 1 4 .200 Lost East Quarterfinals
Total 724 333 298 37 56 27 25 .520

* – Mid-season replacement


External links

Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coaches
New York Rangers Head Coaches
PatrickBoucherL. PatrickColvilleCook • Boucher • M. PatrickWatson • M. Patrick • PikeHarvey • M. Patrick • SullivanFrancisGeoffrion • Francis • Popein • Francis • StewartFergusonTalbotSheroC. PatrickBrooks • C. Patrick • SatorWebsterEspositoBergeron • Esposito • NeilsonSmithKeenanCampbellMucklerTortorellaLowTrottierSatherRenney • Tortorella • VigneaultQuinn


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