VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — New Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella was surprised the subject of his famous temper didn’t come up in the first question of his introductory news conference on Tuesday.
But he didn’t get angry or yell.
The 55-year-old Boston native admitted his reputation needs some work, and he vowed to improve it as he attempts to give Vancouver a long-awaited Stanley Cup title.
“This is the mess I put myself into, and this is the mess I’m going to get myself out of,” he said.
The Canucks hired the fiery Tortorella as the replacement for Alain Vigneault, the winningest coach in franchise history. Known for being abrasive, Tortorella is perceived as a bench boss who can lose his temper quickly, sometimes blasts players in public, and has little time for questions from reporters.
Vigneault, who was hired last week by the New York Rangers to replace the fired Tortorella, was known more as a cerebral coach who laughed on many occasions and had a rapport with the media.
But Tortorella, dressed in a dark suit and tie and smiling at times, turned on the charm on Tuesday, and even thanked a reporter for her question.
“I know how important that part of the job is here,” Tortorella said. “When you lose your job, you crawl into a hole a little bit, you reassess yourself, you try to learn. I have certainly gone through that process.
“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. I make my own bed in this type of situation with the perception of myself in the media.”
Tortorella is also known for battling verbally with players. Tortorella, who has 24 years of coaching experience and won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, vowed to still be demanding of his players and hold everyone — including scoring stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin — accountable.
“We have a really good leadership group … but we have not won the Stanley Cup,” he said. “There’s going to be more asked of (the players), and that starts from the twins right on down.”
Gillis indicated that Vigneault’s tenure with the Canucks had run its course after seven seasons. Vancouver went in the opposite direction by bringing in Tortorella.
“You have a shelf life as a coach in the National Hockey League,” Gillis said. “Occasionally, a different voice is necessary.
“I think John just has a different voice than Alain. Alain is a very good hockey coach. John is a very good hockey coach. But they approach it from different places and they approach it in different ways, and I felt it was necessary to make a change.”
Gillis said the team’s ownership group was involved in the interviewing process, but he dismissed the idea that the Aquilini family chose the new coach.
“At the end of the day, we were both unanimous in our selection,” he said.
Tortorella was fired by the Rangers after they lost to the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs in five games.
As coach of the Rangers the past five seasons, Tortorella led New York to the playoffs three times.
Tortorella has reached the playoffs eight times and won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 2004. He was let go four days after the Rangers’ season ended against the Eastern Conference champion Bruins.
Tortorella was an assistant with the Rangers in the 1999-2000 season and took over for John Muckler as coach for the final four games. Tortorella later spent seven seasons as coach of the Lightning before returning to the Rangers in February 2009 after head coach Tom Renney was fired.
Vigneault was let go after the Canucks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. He guided the Canucks to a berth in the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and helped the team win two Presidents’ trophies and six Northwest Division titles.
Tortorella, the career leader in wins by a U.S.-born coach with 410, served as an assistant for the American team that won silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He also handled head coaching duties for Team USA at the 2008 world championship and served as an assistant coach at the event in 2005.
He said he is looking forward to coaching a Canadian team for the first time.
“To be involved with this, I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “It’s always something I thought about and wanted the opportunity.”
Regardless of the location, Tortorella just wants to win.
“Everybody says be a good loser,” he said. “I think if you’re a good loser, you are a loser.”