Coaches split on tech on benches

Bowness sees benefits while Tortorella imposes ban


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PITTSBURGH — It’s a battle between new school and old school. Technology versus tradition. And Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness admits he has mixed feelings about the topic.

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PITTSBURGH — It’s a battle between new school and old school. Technology versus tradition. And Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness admits he has mixed feelings about the topic.

We’re talking tablets on NHL benches, which you’ll likely see on every broadcast these days when cameras inevitably pan to shots of players studying their last shifts and different systems and schemes.

Veteran coach and resident sour puss John Tortorella recently blasted the practice, vowing his Philadelphia Flyers will no longer allow them. The 64-year-old called it a “major problem” for his team, saying skaters are spending too much time with their faces buried in a screen rather than watching the action unfold in front of them.

Steven Senne / The Associated Press files

Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella has imposed a ban on players looking at tablets during games.

“I don’t give a flying (expletive) how I’m perceived,” the always colourful Tortorella said Friday.

“I really don’t because it’s my job to coach the team. If I’m in the business to try to make everybody happy and be perceived (positively), that’s a tough way to live — and I really don’t pay too much attention to it… I’m kind of locked into what is best for the team, and I have to make those calls.”

Naturally, the question was put to Bowness on Friday as his team prepared to finish out its three-game road trip in Pittsburgh. And the veteran of more than 2,600 games behind NHL benches — more than anyone in league history — can see both sides of the coin.

“I understand where John is coming from, because it is very frustrating for a coach. You want to get players ready for the next shift. They can’t get ready for the next shift when you’re looking at the iPad,” said Bowness, 67,

“As I tell the players in front of me, get ready for the next shift. We’ll deal with this later. Some guys want to look at the power play or the penalty kill, and I understand that, or a face-off play, I understand that. I’ve done it before where I’ve told the players, ‘You’re not looking at that iPad anymore,’ because it was affecting their play.”

Bowness said it boils down to individual players, rather than a sweeping edict.

“Some guys can handle it. You watch Pittsburgh play, Sid (Crosby) is looking at it all of the time. He can handle it. Some guys can’t. It depends on the individual,” said Bowness.

“But again, it’s frustrating. You want to put them back out there and they’re looking at the last shift… I’m not worried about the last shift, I’’m worried about the next shift. We’ll deal with this stuff later. We’re straighten that stuff out later. What’s important is getting your mind (right) and getting ready for the next s shift. I understand where Torts is coming from.”

Tortorella’s ban seems to be working, at least in the short-term. The Flyers have won six of their last seven games as they try to get back in the Eastern Conference playoff race following a rough first half of the season.

“If we’re going to keep on growing here, just get ready for the next shift,” said Tortorella.

“With the iPad, you’re pointing out everything during a game; it’s almost like you have to (as a coach) because we just saw it. And we overcoach. I think we get in the way sometimes and we’re clouding their head with what just happened, instead of let’s try to take care of business on the next shift.”

Bowness was asked if he ever could have imagined this being an issue when he first broke into the coaching ranks in the early 1980s.

“Rick Bowness is not smart enough to figure that one out in the future, trust me,” he said.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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