Blackhawks, John Torchetti (sort of) together again


Blackhawks, John Torchetti (sort of) together again

MINNEAPOLIS – John Torchetti got a few messages from the Blackhawks when he was named the Minnesota Wild’s interim coach. Nice gestures from his former bosses.

“I had some great texts, from Joel [Quenneville] and [team president] John McDonough wishing me good luck except for when we play them,” Torchetti said on Saturday. “So it’s a big game. But for us, I want to see where we’re at.”

A few years ago Torchetti was standing with the Blackhawks, hoisting that Stanley Cup that broke the franchise’s long drought without it. On Sunday afternoon he’ll be behind the other bench.

The former Blackhawks associate coach is currently the Minnesota Wild’s interim coach, getting the nod after the Wild fired head coach Mike Yeo last week. Playing his former team is a thrill, but Torchetti has bigger concerns at the moment.

“Yeah, it’s exciting. It’ll be fun to see the guys back on the ice,” Torchetti said. “But after the puck drops it is just another game, you know?”

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Torchetti was part of the Blackhawks’ coaching staff from 2007 to 2010, when he joined the Atlanta Thrashers. During his time there Torchetti brought life to the Blackhawks’ power play. He also let Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane spread their wings on the ice.

“He brought a lot to our power play. He made things simple for us, never overcomplicated things. He allowed our skill to go out there and make things happen offensively, 5-on-5 and the power play as well,” Jonathan Toews said. “I guess that team is looking for a change. We know they’ll be a different team, especially in that game, knowing what they’ve been through lately.”

Kane agreed.

“He’s one of those guys that I only have good things to say about,” he said. “Our power play was effective when he was here; he was one of those guys that brought me and Tazer on the ice early in our careers before practice to work on some things. Good offensive mind for the game and I really liked him as a person, too.”

[MORE: Blackhawks’ power play is sizzling again]

Torchetti was named interim coach of a Wild team that was sinking fast in the Central Division; the Wild had lost eight in a row and 13 of their previous 14 when Yeo was fired. Since Torchetti took over the Wild have won three in a row heading into this weekend’s division game on a very grand stage.

Justin Fontaine said he’s learned plenty from Torchetti, be it in his time with the Wild or during his minor-league days – Torchetti coached the Houston Aeros during Fontaine’s time there.

“He’s a real energetic guy,” Fontaine said. “You can tell how much he cares about the game. He’s great with systems. He taught me a lot about pro hockey coming from college, and how to adapt to this style of play and pro hockey all around. I have a lot of praise for Torts. He’s been a good coach for me. Even coming in and sparking the team here and going over a lot of things, we have a lot more energy on the bench, a lot more communication and it’s been going in the right direction.”

Jason Zucker said there is a difference between the Torchetti and Yeo’s approaches.

[RELATED: President Barack Obama honors Blackhawks for Stanley Cup victory]

“Every coach is a little different. Nobody’s going to be the same. Torch is a little bit more vocal and … animated. Yeo was a lot more controlled in the way he went about things,” Zucker said. “But everyone has their own way of doing things, and there’s no right or wrong or good or bad with that.”

The Blackhawks are very familiar with their foe and its new coach. The Wild coach is, in turn, familiar with the Blackhawks’ system and their core group of players. They once did a lot of great things together. They’ll be friendly again soon enough but right now, Torchetti is focused on trying to help the Wild turn a season around again.

“I love the game. You have to play with a lot of passion and play with detail and execute. For me, I’m all about the players. My job is to make you a better hockey player and that’s what it’s all about moving forward,” Torchetti said. “I look forward to coaching every day and seeing my players on the ice, then seeing the product work on the ice. That’s the best part about teaching: there’s no ceiling to it.”

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center


Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: