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Best buddies

by Ann Schmaltz / Vancouver Canucks
During the first seven days of Canucks training camp, members of the media found out coach John Tortorella isn’t fond of Twitter or cell phone interruptions. Fair enough. But, it seems he has no problem texting - at least with one special friend.

Liam Traynor was introduced to hockey fans during HBO’s “24/7” series that followed the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers through the 2012 NHL Winter Classic. Traynor, now 12, is the biggest Rangers fan. He loves everything about the team and the game. He lives with cerebral palsy, where non-contagious motor conditions cause physical disabilities in human development. He met former Rangers coach Tortorella at a charity event. The two have remained in close contact.

“A lot of it is just checking in on one another. To look at him – and he hasn’t been given a fair shake right from the get-go – but to see his attitude, how he handles himself, I’m glad that he’s part of my life. I’m glad he’s part of mine.” Tortorella explained during “24/7”.

The coach has offered support and encouragement via text and phone calls during times when Liam has undergone surgeries. He continues to do so.

Traynor has been teary-eyed describing his friendship with Torts: “He really means the world to me actually. He really does. How he watches out for me and how he protects my back.”

On May 29, Traynor got some news he wasn’t expecting, nor wanted to hear. He took to Twitter to express his feelings: “I’m sad with #NYR decision with letting my best buddy Torts go today. Speechless.” His world was shaken.

Fast forward to June 27 – two days after Tortorella was announced as the head coach of the Canucks – and this tweet came across Twitter from @sledhockeyboy: “I’m making a road trip this year! I think he’ll do a great job and Vancouver is lucky to have such a talented coach.”

Tortorella has now relocated to the West Coast and early in camp addressed the distance that separates him and his friend. “I didn’t say goodbye, because there are no goodbyes with Liam and I. We’re always going to stay in touch. Liam struggled a little bit and I guess I did too when I had to leave because there won’t be a lot of face-to-face. But, he’s going to travel out here. Nothing’s changed. There are no goodbyes with Liam and I.”

The test Torts now faces with Traynor is convincing him to cheer for the Canucks and not lose sight of the fact he bleeds blue, red and white. “He’s not going to let go of the Rangers. I know that.” Tortorella is counting on Alain Vigneault, the former bench boss in Vancouver now in charge in New York, to help his friend discover a new team. “I told him Alain is a good man and he’s been introduced to Alain, so I think he is a fan of both. I don’t think Liam will ever leave the Rangers, but he’s a part of us here too.”

There will be times during this upcoming season when Vancouver fans will see the rough and gruff side of John Tortorella. When those times occur, remember how Liam Traynor feels about his buddy with one of his latest tweets — “Torts rocks baby!”

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