New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The National Hockey League handed down a pair of punishments on Monday: a 15-day suspension to Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella and a $25,000 fine against Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley.
The rulings were handed down after a meeting at the league's office in Manhattan, and were a direct result of a brawl which began just after the opening faceoff between the Calgary Flames and Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday night.
At the first intermission, Tortorella attempted to gain access to the Flames' locker room, but was held back by Flames players and Canucks personnel. The hosts eventually prevailed by a 3-2 count in a shootout, but not before 150 penalty minutes were handed out in the first 4 1/2 minutes alone, and 204 PIMs were logged for the entire contest.
"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," said NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell. "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."
Two seconds after the drop of the puck, Calgary's Kevin Westgarth jumped Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa at center ice, and eventually all 10 skaters paired off. Both head coaches also argued with each other from their respective perches on the bench. When order was restored, all 10 players were given misconducts -- eight of which forced combatants off the ice for the remainder of the game.
"We are holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames' right wing Westgarth, who took the game's opening face-off and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent -- the Canucks' Bieksa," Campbell added.
Tortorella's suspension, which is retroactive to January 19, is set to begin with Tuesday's contest against the Edmonton Oilers. It will be completed on Feb. 2, one day before a tilt against the Detroit Red Wings, in effect a six- game absence from the club.
"We respect the decision made by the National Hockey League today to suspend John Tortorella for 15 days from Sunday, with no contact with the team for six games," said Canucks GM Mike Gillis. "We would also like to acknowledge our organization's full support for John and we look forward to having him back behind the bench soon."
The 55-year-old Tortorella had previously been fined three times for inappropriate comments and suspended once during the 2009 playoffs for throwing a water bottle into the stands in Washington, DC. Hartley had never before received discipline in the form of fine or suspension from the NHL.
"I can't put our players at risk that way. I'm not proud of it. I've apologized to all of the players involved," a contrite Tortorella said following the contentious contest.
Hartley's fine is in the same vein as the one handed out to former Sabres head coach Ron Rolston. Rolston was docked an undisclosed sum for "player selection" in a preseason contest against the Maple Leafs, which saw Buffalo enforcer John Scott phsyically engage Toronto's Phil Kessel before a line brawl followed.
"I am perplexed by this fine. I stand behind Bob Hartley completely in this regard, and remain confident that he acted properly in every aspect of this game," noted Brian Burke, Flames president of hockey operations.
Hartley and Tortorella have a history in this regard. During the early stages of the 1995-96 American Hockey League season, Hartley's Cornwall Aces and Tortorella's Rochester Americans engaged in a brawl which resulted from questionable actions by players on both sides.