One Reporter's Reflections On Covering John Tortorella, Bully

Dave Lozo used to write for NHL.com. He doesn't anymore, so he's free to tell you exactly what it was like to cover the Rangers for four years under John Tortorella. Spoiler alert: scary at first, then almost pathetic.

Lozo posted a lengthy reflection on his Tumblr (later republished at Backhand Shelf). It spans his very first question (Torts took pity on him), to the moment he decided he'd never ask the surly coach anything ever again, to the grave-dancing from some reporters after Tortorella was fired last week. Here's a selection, tackling the inevitable defenses of Tortorella from the people who didn't have to work with him every night.

Is there anything better than interviews with the neighbors of a mass murderer? A man or woman looking into the news camera and talking about how great that neighbor was. Oh man, he was so quiet and kept to himself, but he kept his yard really clean and never bothered anyone. He was a pretty great neighbor, all things considered.

The people he murdered, however, probably have a different opinion about the man.

I can’t judge a person by who he is purported to be when I’m not around; I can only judge his actions – four years’ worth – when I’m in his presence. The fact that Tortorella’s heart is poured into a charity involving dogs – not people, dogs – really captures his essence beautifully. The notion that charity work automatically makes someone a good person is like saying someone with a college degree has to be intelligent. There are plenty of exceptions.

Tortorella’s combative nature with those reporters he sees every day seemed to dissolve away at the sight of a big-time national writer at one of his press conference. “Hi, Pierre,” Tortorella would say with a smile as he stepped to the microphone. “Hello, Darren,” Tortorella would offer to his pal. If an old TSN cohort or someone with a national presence was in the room, the made-up rules to insulate himself from the media would go by the way side. If one of them would ask about the lineup, he’d muster something far beyond the one-word answer the beat guys would’ve received.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but Tortorella is the first person I’ve ever met who I believed had both an inferiority and superiority complex. He arrived in New York seemingly petrified of what the New York media would do to him, so he took preemptive steps to guard against them, when in reality, a standard coach/media relationship would have served him better. Like any bully, Tortorella deep down was afraid of the media, and out of that was born a four-year adversarial relationship that wasn’t even necessary in the first place.

Eventually, Tortorella stops being scary. For me anyway, it went from asking a scary coach a question to asking your crazy uncle a question to I’m going to avoid the crazy homeless man altogether and walk on the other side of the street.

The whole thing's worth reading.

[DaveLozo.Tumblr.com]