In a statement via NHL.com, NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell gave his thoughts on the 55-year-old Tortorella's actions:
Mr. Tortorella's actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the League. Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game.
For the uninitiated, Hartley started his bruising, physical lineup against the Canucks on Saturday, and Tortorella countered with his own brute squad. Unsurprisingly, several fights broke out immediately after the faceoff.
Following the action, Tortorella screamed at Hartley from his own bench, and after the first period came to an end, he attempted to get into the Flames' dressing room:
Despite the incident, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis gave his full support of Tortorella following the announcement of the suspension, via CBC Sports' Tim Wharnsby:
#Canucks GM Gillis: "We respect the decision made by the National Hockey League today to suspend John Tortorella for 15 days from Sunday...— Tim Wharnsby (@WharnsbyCBC) January 21, 2014
... with no contact with the team for six games. We would also like to acknowledge our organization's full support for John and we ...— Tim Wharnsby (@WharnsbyCBC) January 21, 2014
... look forward to having him back behind the bench soon."— Tim Wharnsby (@WharnsbyCBC) January 21, 2014
As the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch noted, Hartley was fined $25,000 for his actions. Campbell gave his reasoning for that particular punishment, via Sportsnet 960 The FAN's Pat Steinberg:
Tortorella suspended 15 days - misses 6 games. Hartley gets 25,000 fine.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) January 21, 2014
Colin Campbell says Hartley is responsible for Kevin Westgarth attempting to "instigate a premeditated fight." #Flames— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) January 21, 2014
Of course, Tortorella and Hartley have a bit of a history.
According to Kevin Oklobzija of USA Today, the two first had an altercation nearly 20 years ago when Tortorella was coach of the AHL's Rochester Americans and Hartley led the Cornwall Aces:
By the 18:40 mark of the second period, Tortorella and Hartley were at the front of their benches and right at the glass partition, screaming at each other.
Tortorella accused Hartley of goon tactics, something former coach John Van Boxmeer had done just one season earlier when the Amerks played the Aces.
How do you feel about Tortorella's suspension?
Still, no matter the history, no matter how much Tortorella loathes Hartley and no matter how upset he was with Hartley's lineup decisions, his actions on Saturday night crossed the line.
His counter-move, which predictably led to a line fight, is something that happens in hockey. But to attempt to enter the opposing team's locker room is unacceptable, and it creates a potentially dangerous situation.
Tortorella is known to be a volatile coach who often expresses his emotions, but his actions off the ice were over the line, and the NHL was forced to lay down a heavy punishment as a result.