Tortorella while coaching the New York Rangers
|Occupation||Ice hockey coach, player|
|General manager||Jarmo Kekäläinen|
|Team||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Previous team(s)||New York Rangers|
Tampa Bay Lightning
|Stanley Cup wins||2004|
|Years as a coach||1988–present|
|Years as an NHL coach||2001–present|
|Years with current team||2015–present|
John Robert Tortorella (born June 24, 1958) is an American professional ice hockey coach and former player. He is the head coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League (NHL). Tortorella was previously the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning (2001–2008), the New York Rangers (2009–2013) and the Vancouver Canucks (2013–2014). He led Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship.
Tortorella attended Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts, and he is listed on the school's athletic Hall of Fame wall (1976). He also attended the University of Maine, graduating in 1981. John's brother Jim Tortorella, a goaltender, is also listed on the wall.
Tortorella, nicknamed "The Paper Italian", played right wing for three years (1978–1981) at the University of Maine. While at Maine, he played with his brother Jim, who now serves as a men's assistant coach for the Providence Friars. After college Tortorella went to Sweden to play a year in Kristianstads IK (1981–1982), after which he came back to the United States to play four years of minor pro hockey (1982–1986) in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL). During these years he skated with the Hampton Roads Gulls, Erie Golden Blades, Nashville South Stars and the Virginia Lancers.
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. He never played a game in the NHL.
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.
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 (or "Torts" as he is sometimes called by the press) is known for his outspoken nature, which has included criticizing his own players. Tortorella is also known for his unusual system of regularly rotating goaltending duties during his time in Tampa Bay, a system which was discontinued when he became head coach of the New York Rangers and could use Henrik Lundqvist as the regular starting goalie.
Tortorella took over the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000–01 as a mid-season replacement. He inherited a team that had been among the dregs of the league for four years, having lost 50 games or more in every season during that time. The team won only 12 of its last 43 games under his watch, finishing last in the division. The following season, the team finished well out of playoff contention despite finishing third in the Southeast Division. However, they showed signs of life for the first time in five years, cracking the 60-point barrier for the first time since 1996–97.
The 2002–03 season marked Tortorella's first winning season as an NHL head coach, as the Lightning won their first Southeast Division title, 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 ran away with the Southeast Division title, tallying 106 points—the second-best record in the league. The Lightning were the top seed in the Eastern Conference and proceeded to defeat the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Eastern Conference Championship. In the Stanley Cup Finals, they defeated the Western Conference champion Calgary Flames four games to three, winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. In doing so Tortorella became just the third American-born coach to win it and the first in 13 years. 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 won 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 were unable to defend their division title.
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 during which Tortorella was visibly disappointed, he refused to answer questions directly, saying only "We know what we did" each time a reporter asked a question. When New York Post reporter Larry Brooks asked "What did you do?" Tortorella refused to explain. Frustrated, Brooks eventually asked, "Are you not answering questions, or what?" and when Tortorella answered that he was not, Brooks called the interview "a waste of time." Tortorella then told Brooks to "get the fuck out of here" live on CBC television.
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.
Tortorella was named head coach of the New York Rangers on February 23, 2009, replacing Tom Renney, who was relieved of his duties 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 one 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 a fan clearly heckling Tortorella, before Tortorella responded by throwing a water bottle at a fan and then grabbing a stick from Aaron Voros and trying to spear the fan through a space between two panes of glass. He did not receive a penalty on the play despite the fact that NHL rules state any physical altercation with fans results in ejection from the 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 U.S.-born coaches with the most wins in NHL history. On November 20, 2010 Tortorella became the first American-born coach to reach 300 NHL victories when the Rangers defeated the Minnesota Wild.
In the 2011–12 season he guided the Rangers to the franchise's third ever 50-win season and the best record in the Eastern Conference with a total of 51–24–7 for 109 points. New York lost in the Conference Finals however, to the New Jersey Devils in six games. At season's end, Tortorella became a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for a third time, losing to Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues.
On March 26, 2013 with a 5–2 defeat of Laviolette's Flyers, Tortorella became the first U.S.-born coach to reach 400 career victories.
The Rangers fired Tortorella on May 29, 2013, four days after New York was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Boston Bruins.
Tortorella earned his first victory with the Canucks against the Edmonton Oilers on October 5, 2013, with a final score of 6–2.
During the first intermission of a game on January 18, 2014, Tortorella entered the Calgary Flames dressing room area in an apparent attempt to confront Flames coach Bob Hartley; after a line brawl in the opening seconds of the 1st period, Tortorella angrily attempted to confront Hartley, accusing him of starting a lineup with intent to injure a star Canuck player. Tortorella had to be physically restrained by several players and coaches. The NHL subsequently suspended him for 15 days without pay, barring him from being in contact with the team during his suspension. Canucks assistant coach Mike Sullivan took over the head coaching job during Tortorella's suspension.
Tortorella's tenure with the Canucks would last only a single season, as the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On May 1, 2014, Tortorella and assistant coach Mike Sullivan were fired as part of a management overhaul that had also seen General Manager Mike Gillis let go several weeks prior.
On October 21, 2015, Tortorella was hired to replace Todd Richards as the Columbus Blue Jackets' head coach, after the Blue Jackets started the 2015–16 season with a 0–7–0 record. As compensation for hiring Tortorella, the Vancouver Canucks received the 55th overall pick (Jonah Gadjovich) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft from the Blue Jackets. On March 19, 2016, the Blue Jackets faced the New Jersey Devils and Tortorella became the 26th head coach in NHL history, and the first born in the United States, to coach 1,000 games. On December 18, 2016, the Blue Jackets defeated the Canucks in overtime 4–3, making Tortorella the first American-born coach with 500 victories. On January 10, 2019, Tortorella became the first American-born coach, and 19th overall, to reach 600 victories when the Blue Jackets defeated the Nashville Predators. In the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, Tortorella's Blue Jackets won their first playoff series in franchise history by eliminating his old team, the Tampa Bay Lightning; also being the first time that the Presidents' Trophy-winning team failed to win a playoff game despite the Lightning matching record of 62 regular season wins.
Tortorella was also the assistant coach of the U.S. National Men's hockey team in 2008–2009, replacing Peter Laviolette, which included leading the squad at the 2008 IIHF World Championship, where they finished sixth.
|NYR||1999–2000*||4||0||3||1||—||(1)||4th in Atlantic||Missed playoffs|
|TBL||2000–01*||43||12||17||1||3||(28)||5th in Southeast||Missed playoffs|
|TBL||2001–02||82||27||40||11||4||69||3rd in Southeast||Missed Playoffs|
|TBL||2002–03||82||36||25||16||5||93||1st in Southeast||Lost in Conference Semifinals (NJD)|
|TBL||2003–04||82||46||22||8||6||106||1st in Southeast||Won Stanley Cup (CGY)|
|TBL||2005–06||82||43||33||—||6||92||2nd in Southeast||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals (OTT)|
|TBL||2006–07||82||44||33||—||5||93||2nd in Southeast||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals (NJD)|
|TBL||2007–08||82||31||42||—||9||71||5th in Southeast||Missed playoffs|
|NYR||2008–09*||21||12||7||—||2||(26)||4th in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals (WSH)|
|NYR||2009–10||82||38||33||—||11||87||4th in Atlantic||Missed playoffs|
|NYR||2010–11||82||44||33||—||5||93||3rd in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals (WSH)|
|NYR||2011–12||82||51||24||—||7||109||1st in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Finals (NJD)|
|NYR||2012–13||48||26||18||—||4||56||2nd in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Semifinals (BOS)|
|VAN||2013–14||82||36||35||—||11||83||5th in Pacific||Missed playoffs|
|CBJ||2015–16*||75||34||33||—||8||(76)||8th in Metropolitan||Missed playoffs|
|CBJ||2016–17||82||50||24||—||8||108||3rd in Metropolitan||Lost in First Round (PIT)|
|CBJ||2017–18||82||45||30||—||7||97||4th in Metropolitan||Lost in First Round (WSH)|
|CBJ||2018–19||82||47||31||—||4||98||5th in Metropolitan||Lost in Second Round (BOS)|
|Total||1,256||622||493||37||105||11 playoff appearances|
1 Stanley Cup
* – Mid-season replacement
|Awards and achievements|
| Jack Adams Award
| Head coach of the Tampa Bay Lighting
| Head coach of the New York Rangers
| Head coach of the Vancouver Canucks
| Head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets