In a top NHL hockey market, there is nothing a Vancouver Canucks player or coach does on or off the ice that goes unnoticed by the city's sports media. Unlike many American markets, Vancouver's NHL team makes front-page news and if the team is not winning, the coach is faced with tough questions.
During the recent off-season, Vancouver headlines focused on the new "man in charge" when Canucks signed former New York Rangers coach John Tortorella to lead the hockey club. All cameras focused on the new coach, a man known for his impatient and often volatile relationship with sports media. From screaming and swearing at reporters to his aggressive approach in post game media scrums, Tortorella has earned a reputation with those in the press box.
So how has the NHL coach handled the tenacious Vancouver sports media so far?
After publicly committing to a professional approach in Vancouver, Coach Tortorella had media buzzing after his displeased reaction to a reporter's phone ringing during a pre season media briefing. His comment "I will walk" served to brief media about his temper. Tortorella also voiced his dislike for social media, calling Twitter "narcisstic", which resulted in Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo tweeting a muzzled emoticon.
The coach cited his frustration with media as due to the press working "in hypotheticals" but to date he has kept his cool. Tortorella covered himself carefully after referring to left-winger David Booth as a "weird dude" and even reacted calmly to questions about the team's recent loss to the Montreal Canadiens where the Canucks scored on themselves.
Tortorella has answered questions firmly and appears to anticipate the questions that come his way, setting the ground rules with his media peers. He faltered when asked about criticism on his coaching style by CBC TV, saying he doesn't give a s% what the broadcaster says. But, he makes no excuses.
In a recent interview with TSN's James Duthie, Tortorella admitted that he doesn't plan on reacting with media, but that it happens and he considers it both a strength and a weakness. It's true that in sports, there is more leniency with emotional reactions. Passion is an accepted part of the game and both Tortorella and fans understand that a coach's energy may light a fire for the team.
Knowing Canuck fans, if John Tortorella manages to lead the team to a winning season, what he says in his press scrum won't be considered that important. Then again, if the team struggles, it never hurts to have Vancouver's press gallery on your side. Why not stick to the norm and let the goalie take the heat instead? So far, we give Torts an A-.