Four years ago, while Torts was coaching the New York Rangers and the family of four was living in Rye, NY, Christine heard of a dog shelter not far from their home, a shelter with horrendously wretched conditions.
After Christine and son Dominick witnessed the beat-up shelter first hand, the family saw an opportunity to make a difference and they seized it.
“I saw what was going on and I can’t tell you the emotions that rolled through when I saw some of the things that had to be done,” said coach Tortorella. “We had to euthanize dogs because they weren’t taken care of; some of the conditions they were in and knowing we could help, that’s what really got the ball rolling.
“Now it’s turned into an obsession. If it isn’t hockey, it’s the dogs.”
Following practice early last week Torts turned his attention from the Canucks to the dogs by taking part in the first annual Canucks Cupcake Day as part of National Cupcake Day for SPCAs & Humane Societies.
Canucks Sports & Entertainment employees took part in a bake sale to raise important awareness and funds for animal welfare in British Columbia, funds that Tortorella matched out of his own pocket. Fitting, as the event was inspired by Torts’ commitment to the BC SPCA and his family’s ongoing devotion to helping animals in need.
Before Tortorella filled a tray with an assortment of cupcakes to take down to his coaching staff, he talked dogs with members of the SPCA. If you want to hear passion in Torts’ voice, ask him about Blaze, Emma, Jack or Bear, his beloved dogs.
“Bears’ 11, he’s the oldest,” Torts beamed. “He was a wild dog in Florida that lived around my son’s high school and I was coaching out there. He has to have lab in him, he has Dalmatian spots on his chest, he is a mixture of we don’t know what.
“Emma is six, she’s a full red nose pit bull. Jack is three, he’s quarter border collie, quarter chow, quarter pit bull and a quarter we don’t even know what. Then there’s Blaze, our French Mastiff, we got him about 14 months ago and don’t know much about him, not a lot of history there.” All of Torts’ dogs weigh 85-to-90 pounds and no one loved last year’s NHL lockout more than the dogs, who would be walked, ran and played with day in and day out, until they had enough.Tortorella said he’s looking to foster a fifth dog in the near future, but for right now his focus is on the Canucks.“It’s been a very busy season for us, we haven’t been able to make the commitment we’ve wanted to, but that will come.”Torts has become consumed with helping as many dogs, and animals, as possible, so much so he prefers the company of canines to people.“What breaks my heart is they’ll get beaten, they’ll get chained in a cellar, they’ll get chained to a post, but they’ll come back to the person that’s doing it to them, wagging their tail. They’re so vulnerable and we just want to help.”Click here if you’d like more information on how to join John, Christine and the Canucks in support of the BC SPCA.