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John Tortorella earns 600th NHL win

Blue Jackets coach adds another milestone to his resume

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The great coaches in any sport don't get into the business for the milestones themselves.

For an example of that, ask John Tortorella what he thinks about earning his 600th NHL win as a head coach Thursday against Nashville with a 4-3, overtime win.

"I don't think of it as something special," Tortorella said. "It's a number. But I'm honored and privileged to have the opportunity to be in the game as long as I have. That's what that number is."

But if a coach is good enough, the milestones take care of themselves on their own, and that's certainly been the case for Tortorella.

Video: Sights and Sounds: John Tortorella's 600th Win

Two seasons ago, he became the first American-born head coach to earn 500 wins, and he's now the first American to reach this number. 

"Torts just got his 600th win, most as an American-born coach," captain Nick Foligno said in the locker room as he presented Tortorella with a game puck. "I don't know if it's because he's been around a long time or he's a hell of a coach. I think it's probably the latter. Proud to get it for you tonight, so congrats."

In addition to his milestone victories, he's also a Stanley Cup winner, having won the ultimate prize with Tampa Bay in 2004, and his work in Columbus has been among his finest.

Since Tortorella's arrival, the Blue Jackets have been one of the best teams in the National Hockey League, with the Boston native overseeing the franchise's best-ever season in 2016-17, and this year's team is on pace for the second most points in team history. He is the winningest coach in Blue Jackets history.

He has twice won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach, including two seasons ago with Columbus. In all, he's 154-102-26 with the Blue Jackets and 600-477-34-104 in 18 seasons with the Blue Jackets, Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. 

"What I've enjoyed is just the opportunity to continue to coach in this league," he said. "Things don't go well, you get fired, this, that and the other things -- I've been given great opportnities to be around some really good people. That's what enjoyable to me.

"The 600 is not a big deal to me," he added. "It just shows me that I have been given a chance to stay in this league and coach with some great people -- some great players and coaches."

He becomes the 19th NHL head coach to win 600 games. In addition to Tortorella, six others have coached this season -- Joel Quenneville, who is second all-time with 890 wins, as well as Ken Hitchcock (834), Barry Trotz (785), Paul Maurice (674), Mike Babcock (672) and Claude Julien (605). He barely beat Nashville coach Peter Laviolette, who entered the game with 598 wins, to the mark.

Video: NSH@CBJ: Tortorella lauded for 600th coaching win

That seems fitting since Tortorella once coached the fellow Massachusetts native -- in the AHL All-Star Game in 1997. Being able to compete with and against some of the best in the game -- on and off the ice -- over the past few decades is what sticks out most to Tortorella in his career.

"Terrific coach," Tortorella said. "We've gone through some international tournaments together. He's done a terrific job wherever he's been. He's a terrific coach. Know his family, a terrific family. When you're in it a long time and you meet all the people, that's the most rewarding thing is getting to know the people and their families."

Tortorella added what makes coaching as special as it is is the chance to work with the high-level athletes he coaches on a daily basis. From his Cup-winning team in Tampa to his Rangers teams that competed for titles to the Blue Jackets team he's built into a contender, he's had the chance to make an impact on some of the best in the game over the past two decades.

For captain Nick Foligno, who has had his share of battles with Tortorella since the coach's arrival, the bridge built between the coach and his players is what stands out.

"He protects his players, he cares about his team, he's emotional about his team, but it's all for the right reasons," Foligno said. "When you can kind of understand that and get your mind around that, he quickly becomes one of your favorite coaches and a guy that really gets a lot out of his players. 

"Look around here. A lot of guys have stepped up their game and our team in general has gotten to new heights because of him. ... I know he doesn't (care about the milestone), but it's a testament to the type of coach and person he is and the impact he's had on this game."

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: CONGRATS, TORTS!The first American-born @NHL coach to reach the 600 win milestone.#CBJ pic.twitter.com/yYGIijjy3A

 

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