John Tortorella is known for a long NHL coaching career, but one that’s often involved confrontation, whether with players or with the media. Some of those media confrontations have been particularly remarkable, including repeated fiery exchanges with Larry Brooks of The New York Post, regular combative press conferences, complaints about particular media coverage, and a $25,000 fine last summer for conduct during a media availability (where he answered two questions and then left). And “Torts” is now returning to a media role; he had a brief media stint with TSN in 2008-09 before leaving for the Rangers’ job, and now, following his parting of ways with the Blue Jackets in May, he’ll be a studio analyst for ESPN’s NHL coverage (which begins this fall). Aaron Portzline of The Athletic has more on that:
ESPN has hired former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella to work as a studio analyst starting this fall, a source told The Athletic.
Tortorella, 63, parted ways with the Blue Jackets in May, after the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Columbus went 18-26-12 in the shortened season, finishing seventh in the Central Division.
He has also been the head coach of the Canucks, Rangers and Lightning, whom he led to their first Stanley Cup title in 2004. He has a career record of 673-541-37-132 across 22 seasons.
Here’s a fun Top 10 of Tortorella moments TSN put together back in 2011, including him calling many Canadian media members idiots at #2 and his “Get the f*ck out of here, then!” to Brooks at #1:
While it’s somewhat surprising to see Tortorella heading to a media role again, it’s possible to see where ESPN is coming from with this hire. Tortorella has certainly often been good for a quotable soundbite, and media networks have often been willing to hire “edgy” coaches. This doesn’t always work out for the long run (consider Mike Milbury), but sometimes it does. And it’s worth noting that Tortorella’s media interactions haven’t always been bad; he’s had some fun ones, too, including answering a reporter’s ringing phone in 2019 and talking to the reporter’s mother (a moment shown above). Many weren’t impressed with him during his time as a TSN analyst (which gave us the great “He’s a selfish [bleep]!” moment about Sean Avery shown at number five in the above video) , but that was also 13 years ago. If he’s at a point where he can be an insightful analyst who fits into a studio role, maybe this works out.
It’s also maybe notable that Tortorella is American; ESPN has some prominent Americans in their coverage team, including Chris Chelios, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Callahan (who was responsible for a memorable Tortorella moment), Brian Boucher, Hilary Knight, A.J. Mleczko, and more, but they’ll also be featuring a lot of Canadians (including Mark Messier, Ray Ferraro, Kevin Weekes, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall). And Tortorella is one of the most prominent American coaches out there; he’s currently tied with Peter Laviolette for 12th all time in career regular-season wins with 673, (in 1,383 coached games, a winning percentage of .487, which is better than it sounds when you consider that those numbers also include 37 ties and 132 point-granting overtime losses). And while Laviolette is also American, the 11 coaches ahead of both of them are all Canadian-born. So this lets ESPN say they have one of the most successful American coaches ever as an analyst.
At any rate, it’s certainly interesting to see Tortorella jumping from coaching back into the media world. We’ll see how that move works out for him and for ESPN.