John Tortorella is in the midst of one of his most successful years as an NHL coach, but he’s passing up the chance to coach an All-Star team he’s earned to care for a family member.
Specifically, a furry one.
The Columbus Blue Jackets coach told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he’s taking the weekend off to take care of his son’s 10-year-old pit bull, Emma, who is ailing at the moment. His son, Nick, is stationed abroad as a U.S. Army Ranger at the moment.
"I appreciate so much the number of messages I have received since the announcement," Tortorella said. "But this absolutely is not an emergency. I want to clear that up.
"I needed a few days during the All-Star break — not having to go to the All-Star Game — to take care of something very important to my family and my son."
Those messages were probably alarmed and concerned friends and family and colleagues who heard Tortorella’s announcement that he would miss Thursday’s game in Nashville for a “personal matter that requires my immediate attention.” It appears he’s okay but is doing a favor for his son.
And NHL rules require he take that game off, anyway. In 2009, the NHL began requiring players that skipped All-Star Weekend to sit out the game beforehand whether they’re injured or not. It’s the league’s way of forcing players and coaches to answer the fan’s call and represent the league.
That’s why Evgeni Malkin sat out of Pittsburgh’s game on Thursday; Cam Atkinson is replacing him on the Metropolitan team so he can heal an injury.
Tortorella earned his spot coaching the Metropolitan Division team by leading the Blue Jackets to the highest points percentage in that division by Jan. 10. Columbus is all but guaranteed to make the playoffs after a year where they finished with the third-worst record in the NHL, making Tortorella a favorite to win the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year.