A hockey and sports blogger that knows few limits if any, I always strive to give the readers what they want. I write for a variety of places including Dobberhockey, The Hockey Writers, and The Cauldron among many others. You can find me @ChrisWasselTHW on Twitter and literally no sports question is out of bounds.
Messages are often sent by coaches to the media about players, referees, and opposition on a very frequent basis. However, there are ones that just are a true cut above all reproach. They leave the world talking whether at the water coolers or on social media.
Coaches use a variety of symbols, subtle, and unsubtle code as well. This can be an interesting descent into a world that closely resembles trench warfare. Usually the most memorable moments occur then.
Viewer discretion is advised.
Coaches On Players
Some of the most shocking moments are when you see a coach simply go off on a player whether it be from the same or opposing team. In this instance, coaches calling out their own players can be downright amusing or just one of those out of nowhere moments. Again, remember all those good rants and off we go.
John Tortorella goes off on, in Buffalo
This was after a March 12th loss last year in Buffalo where Jhonas Enroth was 0 for the season. Yes, Enroth shut down the New York Rangers in a 3-1 decision (32 saves) but clearly all anyone could hear from players and coaches from New York was how they were the better team. Over and over that message was echoed by John Tortorella. At one point during his press conference, he asked the media what the players said to them about their own performance.
The most surreal moment had to be when Tortorella opined “Why do I have to answer these questions? Let the players answer it!”. It was a real turn the tables moment for the press. Never a dull moment passed in the world of Torts where feuds with media, coaches, or players were commonplace. Just buckle up as we go a bit further through the history books.
“Iron Mike” Keenan Lets It Rip!
As I said, sometimes the scary moments are just a heartbeat away. Honestly, Mike Keenan won with an abrasive style that often more times than not worked. In the 1988-89 season, Keenan had several run-ins with Dave Manson, who was a tough nosed player for the Chicago Blackhawks. One night the coach’s tactics went a bit too far and I can still remember this story being told many times over how Manson chased the coach throughout the bowels of old Chicago Stadium. This all started from mind games, yes, mind games! Message sent! Coaches had to be babysitters and they really don’t have to now as much.
Some of the classic stories of Jeremy Roenick from that era seem like they are from 50 years ago and yet they are only 25 years old. Basically the older eras of hockey feel like something out of oral tradition where stories are passed down (in total amazement) from generation to generation. Just think about that for a second.
Scotty Bowman: The Generational Bridge?
As many have said, Scotty Bowman’s hammer was his tongue. Truer words could never be said. He coached from the 1950’s into the 1990’s at a variety of levels. In stark contrast to Mike Keenan, Bowman mostly only cared about performance on the ice. That was his focal point. His style was brash and uncompromising on the ice but more friendly off the ice.
His style worked in St. Louis and Montreal and the trophies flowed, particularly in Montreal. However, it derailed when it came to Buffalo. The rigors of coaching and being a general manager for several durations took a heavy toll. Decision making became questionable and then there was Tom Barrasso. Barrasso was a first round pick who won the Calder and Vezina in the same year but was sent to the minors just a handful of games into his second season. After a year of such good play, Bowman ripped Barrasso to shreds (without saying nary a word publicly) and signaled a beginning of the end in Buffalo The reality was Buffalo did not have the talent but worse, Bowman’s mind games had run their course.
Some even argued the “Barrasso Incident” started the goalie down a path where he was just belligerent to media and others around the game. When it worked in Montreal, no one said anything. However gradually the situation in Buffalo just headed toward an inevitable conclusion. Simply what Scotty Bowman was doing was not working. By late 1986, he was fired himself. The irony is no one really knows what happened with Bowman and Barrasso. Few even have discussed it. Yet, they found themselves together again in Pittsburgh in the early 1990’s. By then, Bowman was a different man using an adaptive style. What can be said is that less was more. Less abrasive was more beneficial. Scotty Bowman learned that lesson.
Coaches On The Officials
The reality is that there will always be one incident in hockey that grabs the headlines above and beyond what anyone else considers as the best of “coach on official” conflict. Yes, Jack Adams once punched out a referee in the 1940’s but the hatred that Jim Schoenfeld had with Don Koharski was genuine. People often say what happened after Game 3 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals was not exactly the first rodeo for these two.
Have Another Donut You Fat Pig!
So there may have been a little more to this but throughout the entire era of Lou Lamoriello, it seems one coach or another has contended New Jersey does not get the calls they should. Personally being at the playoff game, the back and forth between coach and official was too hard to ignore. It looked like calls were made that could definitely be considered one sided. After the 6-1 loss, what resulted is just something that has to be seen to be believed.
All everyone sees is the aftermath. Don Koharski could never live it down. Chants of donuts were persistent and with all the court shenanigans, injunctions, and the such, Among New Jersey fans, Koharski will never be forgiven and what happened in 1994 only cemented among Devils faithful that the league had something against their team. Those were just the assertions but it all goes back in some way to that night in 1988 where Jim Schoenfeld basically had enough and decided not to take it anymore. What would have happened if the two had actually came together? Something tells me Koharski would have ended up in the hospital.
Michel Therrien’s “Cut Throat gesture after the Richard Zednik injury (2002) and Lindy Ruff berates officials after a win? (2007) are among TSN’s top 5 list. That is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many episodes between referees and coaches.
Coaches On Opposition:
This is the toughest category. The goal of the article was to actually spotlight that coaches from yesteryear were tougher on their own players than the enemy. There is still one encounter that always sparks a reaction no matter where I see it. John Tortorella and Bob Hartley did not make this list but their actions caused absolute chaos in January and may have been a significant factor as to why Vancouver did not make the playoffs. It sparked a long discussion on “the code”, honor, and staging lines to send messages before a game starts.
Not even the Peter DeBoer-John Tortorella feuds came close to the moment we had. Even what we saw recently with Darryl Sutter’s sarcastic remarks about John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks could top the tops.
Crawford – Bertuzzi – Moore
Furthermore, this was an incident that just was a case of actions speaking louder than words. Cue up Marc Crawford and the Vancouver Canucks. It must be time for the Steve Moore fiasco. After team captain Markus Naslund was hit by a Steve Moore flying elbow, Crawford was incensed and rightfully so that there was no penalty call. Naslund would miss time with a concussion and the next game would be played without incident (Gary Bettman was there). Then the fateful meeting…..
Crawford had said “there would be retribution” and Todd Bertuzzi was determined to make it so. A first fight was not enough for Moore and then there was that clubbing punch to the head the awkward landing, and the severe career ending injury. The video is like it happened a month ago and yet it has been ten years. The trial is on the docket finally and eventually we are likely to get closer to what really happened. All it really took was what Crawford thought of Moore and the fact there was a wait to indicate what Vancouver honestly felt about what had occurred to their leader (Naslund). The video is worth so many words.
It just shows coaches send messages to the media in many ways. Whether it is dark, constructive, or a little lighter, if the message is out there, it will get sent.