Well, you don’t see this every day. Some 24 hours after he was caught on camera throwing a water bottle at an innocent Washington fan, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella was suspended for Game 6 of the teams’ first round series by the NHL. In case you lost track, the Rangers lead that series 3-2, which means that Tortorella could miss the decisive game because of a water bottle toss.
(Don’t worry John, you can go hockey casual all day Sunday.)
We have no record of other hockey coaches being suspended for potential decisive games, but there’s really no more fitting sport for such a ridiculous turn of events to follow. Clearly, this was a punishment ticketed for Lou Pinella or Pat Riley, and somehow a guy who openly advocated for Sean Avery to be banned, then came back to coach him within months, got the envelope instead.
There’s no debating that Tortorella deserved to get something. After all, he drilled a poor fan with a full bottle at point blank range. That still doesn’t mean that he should have to serve his suspension during the playoff series itself, does it? Haven’t past playoff suspensions been served the following year? Are we missing something here?
Yet, as much as the academic debates may be fascinating, the more pertinent questions may revolve around what will happen this afternoon, when the Capitals and Rangers face off in Game 6. If New York uses the suspension as motivation, the NHL will have influenced the series by intervening and suspending Tortorella. If the Capitals win because New York can’t pull together a decent defensive game, well, the NHL will have influenced the series by intervening and suspending Tortorella.
Either way, it’s a lose-lose for Gary Bettman et. al. The only question is whether it will help keep a more marketable city in the playoffs, or help keep a more marketable star alive. Makes for an interesting subplot, doesn’t it?