Iron Mike may live in Siberia, but he sure didn’t miss Saturday night’s show in Vancouver.
Mike Keenan, the long-time NHL head coach now in his first year with the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk, says Canucks boss John Tortorella could have avoided the entire, now very famous, incident.
“I think John really went out of his way to get himself into a bad situation,” Keenan told Sportsnet 590 The Fan Tuesday morning.
The bad situation began, of course, when Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley elected to start Saturday’s game in Vancouver with his fourth line on the ice. Tortorella responded in kind, and a line brawl broke out that resulted in 152 penalty minutes and a lot of blood. Then, after the first period, Tortorella followed the Flames to their dressing room entrance and had to be restrained from going after them.
“First of all, he could have started the Sedins,” Kennan explained. “He could have started whoever he wanted. Bob Hartley has that privilege to start who he wants and then you decide what you want to do after that. And then to go down the hallway to the other dressing room, that’s just crossing the line. I was surprised. He got too emotional.”
On Monday the NHL suspended Tortorella for 15 days; he’ll miss six games. Hartley was handed a $25,000 fine.
Kennan balks at the notion that Tortorella started his fourth line because he didn’t want to see the Sedins have to drop the gloves.
“The tough guys have honour, and they’re not gonna go and beat these people up. It doesn’t happen,” Keenan said. “In my experience over a long period of time in the National Hockey League, I’ve never seen a real tough guy go beat up a young guy that was defenceless.”
Keenan has put that theory to test. He says Saturday’s fight reminded him of when he coached in Philadelphia and then Oilers coach Glen Sather pulled the same move, starting Edmonton tough guys including Marty McSorely and Dave Semenko.
“I started to laugh, because then I started all the skilled players we had on the hockey team, like Pelle Eklund and (Ilkka) Sinsalo and (Murray) Craven, and guys that had never had a fight in their life,” Kennan said. “Glen’s looking at me, the other players are yelling at me, like, ‘Bring on the tough guys!’ I said, no, no, no. We dance in our own building. We decide who we’re gonna dance with and what time and who the partner’s gonna be.'”