Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
10 fun facts to mark the 10-year anniversary of Canucks coach Tortorella storming the Flames’ locker room
1 month ago
Today marks the 10-year anniversary of one of the most infamous nights in the history of the Vancouver Canucks. On January 18, 2014, head coach John Tortorella stormed the tunnel leading to the visitor’s locker room at Rogers Arena in an attempt to get at Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley.
It was a wild overreaction to Hartley electing to start a line-up of tough guys that led to the Canucks responding in kind producing a highly-predictable line brawl off the opening face-off.
While the last of the fists flew, Tortorella first tried to get at Hartley at the end of the Canucks bench. Unsuccessful, he clearly seethed through a relatively uneventful remainder of the first period only to launch his offensive as the teams made their way to their respective dressing rooms following the first period of play.
While everyone remembers the brawl and the Tortorella rampage a decade later, much took place that night that you may have forgotten. Here are 10 things that stand out from one of the wildest nights ever at Rogers Arena:
1: It may not have mattered who the Canucks faced that night or who the other team had in its starting lineup.
The Canucks felt like a powder keg waiting to explode and Hartley and the Flames were the ones to light the fuse. In the week leading up to the Hockey Night in Canada match-up, the Canucks had lost 1-0 in Los Angeles and got pummelled 9-1 in Anaheim. But the Flames game wasn’t a response to the beatdown by the Ducks. No, the Canucks went to Phoenix after the Anaheim game and lost another 1-0 game for the second time that week. So in the three games preceding the Flames fiasco, the Canucks had been outscored 11-1. As a result, you can understand why frustrations were running high
2: As the visitors that night, the Flames had to set their lineup and starters first
Hartley elected to put out a line of Brian McGrattan, Blair Jones and Kevin Westgarth with Westgarth, a winger through and through, designated to take the opening faceoff. Essentially, the Flames set the trap, and Tortorella took the bait. The Canucks could have responded with the Sedins or Ryan Kesler and tried to exploit the competitive imbalance on the first shift of the game. Instead, Torts chose the nuclear option and went with a line of Tom Sestito with Dale Weise and hulking rookie Kellan Lain making his NHL debut. Following the game, Sestito offered up a Hall of Fame worthy quote: “Torts told us they were starting their idiots over there, so we had to match that.”
3: The dance partners
While the vision of Kevin Bieksa stepping in to replace Lain on the opening draw against noted tough guy Westgarth remains vivid for many, few remember that despite the best intentions, the plan went awry. In the midst of the chaos, Westgarth still ended up paired off with Lain while Bieksa grabbed Flames defenceman Ladislav Smid. Tom Sestito renewed acquaintances with Brian McGrattan in a heavyweight tilt, Dale Weise fought Blair Jones while Jason Garrison tussled with Chris Butler. Smid, Butler, Westgarth, Jones, Bieksa, Garrison, Lain and Weise all got fighting majors and game misconducts. Westgarth also got an additional two minutes for roughing. Sestito and McGrattan, deemed to be the initial scrap, received fighting majors and misconducts, however both stayed in the game. Despite the Flames being down to 10 forwards for the bulk of the night, McGrattan played a grand total of 2:48 that night
4: That wasn’t Bieksa’s first faceoff, but it was his first faceoff win
when Bieksa called off Lain and stepped in to take the face-off against Westgarth it was just the second time in his NHL career the defenceman took a draw. For what it’s worth, even though the puck was an afterthought in that moment, Bieksa was given credit for his first NHL face-off win.
5: Mikael Backlund is the only player on either side that night still with the same team.
Chris Tanev was a Canuck back then and is now one of Backlund’s teammates in Calgary. Former Flames Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are both still in the league and together in Toronto. A young Sean Monahan was in the Calgary line-up and is now in Montreal. Aside from Tanev, the Canucks have no one from their roster that night that is still in the NHL. Of course, after all these years, John Tortorella is still going strong behind the bench in Philadelphia.
6: Shane O’Brien didn’t get in on the fun
Shane O’Brien – no stranger to NHL rough stuff – was in the Flames line-up that night, but was not among the players selected by Hartley for the opening face-off. Perhaps he had too many friends on the Vancouver roster having played for the Canucks only a few years earlier
7: In total, the two teams combined for 204 total penalty minutes on the night.
The 103 racked up by the Canucks remains untouched in the decade since. The closest they’ve come is 96 in a 2016 game in Toronto when Ryan Miller and Troy Stecher tangled with Leafs tough guy Matt Martin.
8: With eight players ejected from the game, others were asked to step up.
And no one more so than Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, who logged a staggering 38:05. For the Canucks, Dan Hamhuis played 36:12. Hamhuis and Wideman were named the game’s first two stars despite neither figuring in the scoring on the night. Wideman’s ice time was the most ever for an NHL player in a regular season game until Anaheim’s Cam Fowler topped him last season logging 38:54. The Hamhuis total remains the most ever logged in a regular season game by a Canuck skater. Daniel Sedin’s ice time of 28:55 that night was 1:02 shy of the franchise mark for a forward set by Pavel Bure in 1997. The goalies for the Canucks and Flames that night were Roberto Luongo and Kari Rammo. Both remained in their creases and did not show any inclination to join the rough stuff off the opening face-off. While it felt like time stood still in the moment, video of the episode shows that the entire brawl lasted just 1:10 of real time before players were guided to the penalty box or the locker room and order was restored. Credit to the on officials that night: referees Dave Jackson and Kyle Rehman along with linesmen Lonnie Cameron and John Grandt.
9: John Tortorella’s suspension
Torts was suspended for 15 days, which amounted to six games, but the actual punishment was handed down in days, not games. The Canucks went 2-4 in Tortorella’s absence. For his questionable decision-making that led to the opening faceoff chaos, Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 by the league.
10: Henrik Sedin didn’t complete the game
Lost in the commotion at the start of the game and again in the first intermission was the fact that Henrik Sedin played just 12:11 and left after two periods with a rib injury. It would end his ironman streak at 679 games – the sixth longest in NHL history at the time. Went from March 2004 to January 2014 without missing a game
And, finally, not that it mattered then — nor does it a decade on — but the Canucks won the game 3-2 in a five-round shootout. The Canucks’ shooters were Alex Burrows, Yannick Weber (G), Ryan Kesler, Zack Kassian, and Chris Higgins (GWG). It is a night that will live on in the memories of those in attendance and the many others who wished they were.
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