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Coaching tantrums

Posted: 01/25/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0


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John Tortorella


John Tortorella

No one could have been too surprised when the National Hockey League sent Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella to the penalty box.

Unless you've been hiding in a drain pipe, you know the NHL slapped the famously fiery bench boss with a 15-game suspension for his actions during a fight-filled game between the Canucks and the Calgary Flames last Saturday night.

Things got off to a rocky start when Flames head coach Bob Hartley started the game with his fourth line, prompting Tortorella to retaliate by putting his own tough guys on the ice.

The result? Just two seconds into the Canucks' 3-2 shootout win, all 10 skaters were duking it out in a furious line brawl. Tortorella tried to engage Hartley in a shouting match, but Calgary's coach didn't want to play along.

And so, during the first intermission, Hockey Night in Canada's cameras captured a fuming Tortorella in the hallway trying to storm the Flames' locker-room to confront his rival while a host of Calgary players, led by hulking forward Brian McGrattan, held him back.

The NHL called his actions "both dangerous and an embarrassment to the league," but it's tough to know what was going on in his head. Did he lose control of his emotions in the heat of the moment? Or was it a deliberate bid to fire up an underperforming team?

The only thing we know for sure is Tortorella's meltdown has earned him a spot in the Hall of Shame alongside these five classic coaching tantrums:


5 The combative coach

Dauphin Kings head coach Marlin Murray

THE CONSPICUOUS CAPER -- Normally it's nice to have some local content in these lists, but maybe not this time. In March 2012, Murray became a YouTube sensation after going ballistic during a Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoff game at the St. James Civic Centre. The Kings coach was suspended for 12 games after a king-sized, profanity-laced tantrum with just under six minutes to play in a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Saints. What set him off? That's not totally clear, though penalties were likely a factor and he appeared to be, um, displeased with the officiating. In a video of his spectacular meltdown, an enraged Murray can be seen flinging piles of hockey sticks, water bottles, a cooler and other assorted debris from the bench onto the ice towards officials. "This is a gong show," a hockey fan who saw the tantrum and uploaded a video to YouTube told the Free Press at the time.


4 The combative coach

Ex-Mississippi Braves minor-league manager Phillip Wellman

THE CONSPICUOUS CAPER -- If you're going to totally lose your stuff, you might as well make it one for the ages. That could easily be the motto of Wellman, who gained international notoriety after a tirade against the umpires during a June 1, 2007, game against the Chattanooga Lookouts. Infuriated his pitcher had been tossed, Wellman stormed the field the way the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy. In a display seen countless times on sports highlight shows and the Internet, he vented his anger by covering home plate with dirt, tracing a new and larger home plate in the dirt, uprooting bases and throwing them, then crawling commando-style, picking up the rosin bag, pulling an imaginary grenade pin and lobbing it an umpire. It ended when he pretended to eject the umpires and blew a farewell kiss to the crowd while taking a bow.


3 The combative coach

Former Indiana University Hoosiers coach Bobby Knight

THE CONSPICUOUS CAPER -- Some players and coaches have lists of greatest hits, whereas Knight has a list of greatest fits. He is infamous for temper tantrums ranging from slamming his fist into the scorer's table to giving one player a mock whipping and reportedly choking another during practice. But he will be forever remembered for the legendary chair-throwing incident during a Feb. 23, 1985, basketball game against the Purdue Boilermakers. After his squad racked up six personal fouls in the first five minutes, Knight boiled over. He griped to the refs, earned a technical foul, then, wanting to take his anger out on anything, grabbed a folding chair and flung it across the court and into college basketball history. Sadly, it's the image that defines the career of one of the greatest hoops coaches of all time.


2 The combative coach

Former Colorado Eagles assistant coach Greg Pankewicz

THE CONSPICUOUS CAPER -- There's a scene in the greatest hockey movie of all time, Slap Shot, wherein one of the players skates onto the ice in the middle of a brawl and does a lengthy striptease, shedding his uniform until he's sporting only skates and a jockstrap. We assume Pankewicz is a big fan, considering his tirade during a Feb. 19, 2011, game between his Eagles and the Mississippi RiverKings of the Canadian Hockey League. Pankewicz became enraged at the refs and channelled the scene from Slap Shot, flinging expletives before methodically peeling off his tie, suit jacket, dress shirt, T-shirt and shoes and launching them, one by one, onto the ice. The half-naked coach was sent to the dressing room and later suspended 14 games and fined.


1 The combative coach

Former Kansas City Royals field boss Hal McRae

THE CONSPICUOUS CAPER -- It's difficult picking one meltdown as the all-time greatest, but this tirade gets our vote because it involved blood. It began innocently after a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on April 26, 1993, when McRae was asked about why he hadn't inserted a pinch hitter. In an outburst caught on video, he boils over, hurls profanities at reporters -- "I'm tired of all these stupid-ass questions every night" -- and trashes his office by throwing a phone and a tape recorder. In the video, a reporter for a Topeka newspaper is seen bleeding from a gash on his cheek after being hit by a flying object. After the journalists file out, McRae follows them to the door and administers the coup de grace, roaring: "Now, put that in your (very bad word) pipe and smoke it!"


THE LAST ANGRY WORD -- We realize many of you would have put together an entirely different list of meltdowns. Well, in that case, smarty-pants, maybe you want to drop the gloves right now... Oops! Never mind.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 D2

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