It doesn’t take much for an old hockey coach to be mistaken as a curmudgeon, as John Tortorella knows all too well now.
After the Goal of the Decade candidate was scored by Anaheim Ducks youngster Sonny Milano and ingeniously set up by (quickly) rising star Trevor Zegras, the focus was then shifted to the coach-turned-ESPN-broadcaster Tortorella for his reaction after the game.
Tortorella questioned whether the play was even a “hockey play” and described the modern game as “too showman.” It, obviously, did not go over well.
On Thursday, the veteran NHL bench boss returned to the broadcast to comment on the reaction to his previous remarks.
From “The Point” yesterday on ESPN2 and now on ESPN+..Torts on his Trevor Zegras alley oop goal comments… pic.twitter.com/kjwSClKnTX
— House Of BuccZegras (@Buccigross) December 17, 2021
“I live under a rock. I didn’t realize all of this was going on after the show,” Tortorella said on ESPN Thursday. “A coach in the league sent me an article yesterday and I read the article. And I saw what [Zegras] was going through as far as the questions that were being asked of him. My heart dropped, because the furthest thing from my mind was criticizing this kid.
"That was a tremendously skilled play by a tremendously skilled player – both him and Sonny [Milano]. My thoughts were ‘is it a hockey play?’ And we can debate that all through here, agree or disagree, I’m not saying what is right or wrong.”
Tortorella did not walk back any comments, but no doubt feels that he was misunderstood.
His attention was then on the media’s response to his response.
“What bothers me is the media,” Tortorella said. “I do think they have taken it to another level where they have put this kid in a tough spot and this is what I feel terrible about; that my comments have been taken out of context, almost as trying to put me and Trevor against one another.
"That is the furthest thing I wanted to happen. I do not want to interrupt anybody’s play, any team’s play, through comments. If the media has disdain for me, so be it. What you feel about me, is really none of my business, but it is my business when you turn my words to a kid, a 20-year-old kid and put him in that type of spot.”
There appears to be a very blurred line between criticizing a player for making a play that you question belongs in the sport, or if you’re appreciating the talent and skill at the same time as wanting it out of the game you know and love.
At least Tortorella finished off on a little bit of a positive note.
”I hope he does it again quite honestly. You don’t have to agree with it and I stick with my thoughts as far as I think it is, but I wish him nothing but the best.”
Yeah, we all hope he does it again too, John.
Maybe this time, Tortorella will join us in watching it hundreds and hundreds of times in a single night.
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