The National Hockey League announced Saturday that New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has been suspended for one game for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a fan during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with the Washington Capitals on April 24 in Washington.
The incident occurred 6:33 into the third period.
Tortorella will miss the Rangers’ game Sunday afternoon against Washington at Madison Square Garden.
“While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot — and will not — tolerate any physical contact with fans,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said. “We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers’ bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center.
“That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage.
“While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege mitigating circumstances, the fact is we do not tolerate contact with our fans in this manner. That is communicated before each season in a memo that is issued by the League to all of the management, coaches and players of every team.
“The Sept. 8, 2008, memo, entitled ‘Supplementary Discipline Reminders for the 2008-09 Season,’ included the following section regarding Contact With Fans:
Even where a fan is verbally abusive, intoxicated, or profane, club personnel should either ignore the conduct or, where appropriate, seek the assistance of police or security personnel at the arena. This prohibition extends to all forms of physical contact, whether it be direct physical contact, the throwing of objects (including hockey sticks and other equipment) or even the squirting of water. While the latter form of conduct may have, in the past, seemed to be of a minor or harmless character, such conduct may serve only to incite and provoke an unruly fan and may ultimately lead to unforeseen consequences.
Accordingly, please be on notice that all Club personnel (management, coaches, trainers, and/or players) who engage in any form of physical contact with fans, including the squirting of water, will, on a going forward basis, be subject to discipline in the form of a suspension. The Club involved will also be subject to a fine.
The suspension was issued pursuant to the Commissioner’s authority under Section 6.3(j)(1)(a) of the NHL Constitution.
Comment: Former Caps Coach Jim Schonfeld will take over behind the New York bench and this should be a rallying point for the Rangers. Since Henrik Lundqvist is playing tomorrow it really doesn’t matter who is coaching New York. The Caps have their work cut out for them against a goalie who typically bounces back strong after a bad outing. Washington will likely need a near perfect performance on Sunday to even up the series and send it back to the Verizon Center for a game 7 (that would be on Tuesday, if necessary). Caps fans will need to break out their Journey records and crank up “Don’t Stop Believin’”