By Rob Ficiur
This week the most common replay on the sports channels was either Vancouver Canucks Coach John Tortorella screaming at Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley when a line brawl broke out two seconds into their game; or John Tortorella trying to visit the Calgary Flames dressing room after the first period (about an hour later). Coach John was suspended by the NHL for the second offense. No sports league can tolerate coaches (or players) going after opponents in their dressing rooms between periods.
What does it say about sports fans that we watch coaches’ temper tantrums over and over again? Here are a few ideas.
1. When we cheer for one team, we often cheer against other team(s). John Tortorella is one of the coaches fans either love or hate. If you are in the latter category, we like to see our “arch enemy” losing his cool. It validates our already existing opinion that this person does not have the dignity to coach at the professional level. (It is a little harder when the coach for your team does foolish things, but all we have to do is not watch the replays of that).
2. Coaching melt downs are the proof we need that certain coaches are not good at their job. When John Gibbons managed the Toronto Blue Jays from 2004-2008 he compiled a 305 wins and 305 losses. Immediately after Gibbons was re-hired in 2013, fans disapproved of the move because John had two bad days in those first 610 as Manager. On separate occasions Gibbons got into fist fights with pitcher Ted Lilly and infielder Shea Hildebrand. Not really. Just reading about those events and watching the video on the internet – there were no punches thrown (none of those involved claimed there were punches). However, fans did not let the facts get in the way; they still believe that Coach Gibbons got into fist fights with two average players – and so therefore he was not a good manager.
3. It is entertaining to watch someone melt down and have a bad day. We all have bad days, but most of us don’t have cameras fixed on us when we lose our temper or say inappropriate things (such as all the beeps that follow many Tortorella press conferences while he was in New York.) Sports is all about entertainment, and seeing coaches lose their temper must be entertaining – or else why are we watching it again and again?
4. So many types of melt downs – Coaching melt downs show themselves in so many ways. Coaches yelling at each other across the glass happens regularly. Baseball managers arguing with umpires is a common occurrence. No matter how long you have been a sports fan, there is always a new way for a coach to melt down – like Tortorella’s visit to the wrong dressing room.
The following are my most memorable coaching melt downs; for creativity and uniqueness: (Warning – do not try this at your job this week)
1982 Stanley Cup semi-final – after seeing numerous calls go against his team, Vancouver Canucks coach Roger Nielson hung a white towel on a hockey stick and waved it as if to surrender. One of the players on the bench suggested they throw sticks out on the ice. Coach Nielson said that had been done before. When Nielson displayed the white flag of surrender he was given a bench penalty and ejected from the game and fined. The Roger Nielson statue at Rogers Centre in Vancouver shows the coach waving his white flag.
LA Kings Coach Tom Webster got upset when referee Kerry Fraser gave his team an extra two minutes in penalties after a rouging scrum. To show his displeasure, coach Webster threw a hockey stick, javelin style, at the ref. Coach Webster was suspended for twelve games by the NHL. Had Webster been a better javelin shot and hit the ref, he would have got more than twelve games.
John Schoenfeld played over 700 NHL games, and was NHL head coach for five seasons. If you Google the name Jim Schoenfeld and you find what looks like an unrelated word – doughnut. Doughnut – Schoenfeld and Koharski are listed together and remembered as another coaching outburst.
In the 1988 playoffs, Schonfield’s New Jersey Devils lost a game to Boston 6 – 1. Coach Schoenfeld wanted to let referee Don Koharski know that he thought the officiating was not up to par. Like Tortorella this year, Schoenfeld went down the wrong aisle and followed the referee towards his dressing room after the game. Schoenfeld yelled the following to referee Koharski “You fell you fat pig. Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut! You fat pig!” The NHL suspended Schoenfeld for the next game. The Devils got a court order allowing Schoenfeld to coach. Forty minutes before the next game NHL referees walked out, leaving the NHL to run the game with replacement referees.
I think there are two reasons why do fans love / hate to watch coaches temper tantrums? First the out bursts show the intensity that is needed to win. (A for intensity not so high marks for self-control). Second, we never know when they will happen or what will happen – just like a regular sporting event.