I like Torts. Torts is a fiery guy. - Bob Hartley
COLUMBUS, OH -- It was just over two years ago that the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks made headlines across North America.
On Jan. 18, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, former Canucks head coach John Tortorella made headlines when he attempted to enter the Flames locker room during the first intermission of game that featured eight players ejected and 152 penalty minutes assessed after a line brawl occurred right after the puck dropped.
Tortorella was issued a 15-day suspension for his actions. Flames head coach Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 as the NHL held "Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames' right wing Westgarth, who took the game's opening faceoff and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent -- the Canucks' Kevin Bieksa."
The two met once more that season, which saw Tortorella decry Hartley's statements about former Flame Paul Byron's hit on Daniel Sedin.
Since then, Tortorella has moved on, accepting a position with the Columbus Blue Jackets after Todd Richards was released from his coaching duties last October. Tomorrow's game will be the first meeting between the two bench bosses since the 2013-14 campaign.
"I like Torts. Torts is a fiery guy," Hartley said after the Flames practice at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday afternoon, before addressing the Jan. 18 incident. "Usually, we always talked in the morning. On that day, I didn't see him. And it was already decided on our side that those guys were starting.
"We had even talked as team, we were a non-playoff team, so obviously we wanted to give a reward to some guys for hard work and everything. Torts took it the wrong way, plain and simple. He's full of fire."
Hartley and Tortorella traveled similar paths on route to landing head coaching gigs in the NHL.
In the mid-90's, both earned head coaching gigs in the American Hockey League. Tortorella won the Calder Cup in 1996 with the Rochester Americans. Hartley won the AHL's top prize in 1997 with the Hershey Bears.
Hartley was appointed the Colorado Avalanche's head coach in 1998-99 and winning the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001.
Tortorella got his first NHL head coaching job 2001-02 in Tampa Bay. He would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004.
Both men are in the midst of their 13th NHL season as NHL head coaches.
"What I understand the most is he went up the same channel as me and we got to the NHL because we were supported by good people. That's why we still have a chance to compete against each other," Hartley stated.
"In order to get kind of a relationship or a rivalry with someone or some teams, you need to get there. We got there and that's why I fully respect him. He's a hard worker. He's a hard-nosed guy. In a way, we have some similarities."
Expect to see a different look to the Flames lineup on Thursday night in Columbus.
"There will definitely be some changes," Hartley said. "I'm not set yet but expect some changes."
Here are the lines and pairings run at practice today:
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Micheal Ferland
Sam Bennett - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Joe Colborne - Markus Granlund - David Jones
Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Josh Jooris
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Kris Russell - Dougie Hamilton
Deryk Engelland - Dennis Wideman
Jiri Hudler, who has struggled with a groin injury in the past couple of weeks, did skate today and Hartley was impressed with his jump today at Nationwide Arena.
"I asked him a few times on the bench yesterday and he told me his groin was good. This morning I felt that he was even skating better. We're giving him plenty of rest and he's doing a good job."
Karri Ramo will get the start in net against the Blue Jackets.