Flyers' John Tortorella: Ivan Provorov Did 'Nothing Wrong' with Pride Night Boycott

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2023

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 20: Head Coach of the Philadelphia Flyers John Tortorella speaks during a press conference after his team defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 at the Wells Fargo Center on December 20, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Philadelphia Flyers' head coach John Tortorella stood up for Ivan Provorov after the defenseman made the decision to boycott the organization's Pride night for religious reasons.

"Provy did nothing wrong," Tortorella told reporters Thursday. "Just because you don't agree with his decision doesn't mean he did anything wrong."

Tortorella's comments were met with backlash:

Hemal Jhaveri @hemjhaveri

What really burns me up is Tortorella's inability to condemn homophobia and bigotry in the strongest possible words. Clown organization. <a href="https://t.co/P462pqOVyC">pic.twitter.com/P462pqOVyC</a>

Bruce Arthur @bruce_arthur

John Tortorella once said he would bench any player who didn't stand for the US anthem. So what have we learned here <a href="https://t.co/uHoFxG2pKv">https://t.co/uHoFxG2pKv</a>

Mark Lazerus @MarkLazerus

"Ivan Provorov made a decision not to participate in an event that was important to our team and our fans. As a result, we, as a team, made a decision not to play him, out of respect to the LGBTQ+ community and all our fans."<br><br>The end. That's all he had to do. All he had to say.

Scott Powers @ByScottPowers

You come to expect people like Provorov in hockey. It's the lack of accountability that's so frustrating and disappointing. Tortorella respects Provorov being true to himself? Really? That's what you're going to say in that moment? It's all just so ridiculous and sad.

While Tortorella did say in 2016 that he would bench any player who didn't stand for the playing of the national anthem, he attempted to walk back those comments in 2020.

"I would hope that if one of my players wanted to protest during the anthem, he would bring it to me and we would talk about it, tell me his thoughts and what he wanted to do," he said. "From there, we would bring it to the team to discuss it, much like it's being discussed in our country right now," he said.

He further clarified his feelings on that particular situation on Thursday.

"I learned a lot through that experience," Tortorella said. "My feelings toward any type of protest to the flag during the anthem, it disgusts me; to this day, it disgusts me. It shouldn't be done. Those are my feelings. I can't push those feelings onto someone else. So I was wrong in saying that back then. I didn't realize I was But once I went through it all, who am I to push my feelings onto someone else? Same situation here."

Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, sat out the team's warmups before Tuesday's matchup against the Anaheim Ducks because the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and wrapped their sticks in rainbow tape.

"My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion," he told reporters after the fact. "That's all I'm going to say."

The Flyers were aware ahead of time that Provorov was planning to boycott the warmups and Tortorella said he never considered benching him for the game.

"Why would I bench him? Because of a decision he's making on his beliefs and his religion?" he said. "It turned out to be a great night for Pride night."