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NHL fines Tortorella $20K, also adds strange ‘conditional fine’

NHL fined Tortorella

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 14: Head Coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets talks to the media after Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 14, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL fined John Tortorella $20K for his profane criticisms of officials following Sunday’s controversial 3-2 Blues Jackets loss to the Blackhawks. The league also added a strange wrinkle: a conditional $25K fine in the event of “similar inappropriate behavior” from Torts through Dec. 29, 2020.

So does this mean that Tortorella could not just celebrate the holidays and a new year in late 2020/early 2021, but also a renewed ability to speak his mind?

The whole thing is odd enough that you might want to see the release for yourself:

NHL fans have become familiar with conditional picks being traded, but conditional fines? (Tom Wilson might want to start putting aside some extra money, just in case.)

Torts followed a familiar pattern to receive this unfamiliar punishment. Consider the Stages of Torts Fine.

1. Tortorella fumes, usually after a loss

Whether you like Tortorella or not as a coach, you can’t deny that he’s one of the only coaches who consistently entertains (intentionally or not) during post-game press conferences.

Honestly, the league hanging that conditional fine over Torts’ head isn’t just strange and pushy. It also might make him bite his tongue and provide more “no-comment” answers. Do we really want censored Torts after seeing him fly off the handle so many times?

(Enters vote for Profane Torts.)

2. Torts keeps costing himself money

We’ve reached the point where Tortorella should have fine and suspension protection built into any contract.

Recall that Tortorella received two fines in 2011-12 alone, including one for calling officiating “disgusting” following the 2012 Winter Classic.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline puts Tortorella’s fines total at $80K, and that’s if he avoids that conditional $25K fine. (Hey, 100 does make for a good milestone, generally speaking.)

The league also suspended Tortorella 15 days (or six games) for his notorious Flames confrontation during Torts’ Canucks days. The Blue Jackets should invest in someone whose job is to calm Tortorella down, much like how Rams coach Sean McVay has someone monitoring his sideline movements.

3. Tortorella usually apologizes

After venting about the 2012 Winter Classic, Tortorella apologized for “tainting” it with his mouth.

Torts also backtracked following the Blackhawks incident that drew Wednesday’s fine.

“I ask my team to be disciplined, and I think it’s quite honestly a big part of our loss last night, was the lack of discipline with our team. I think the coach followed through with lack of discipline after the game with you guys,” Tortorella said (he’s “the coach”).

“If I have a problem with something that has gone on in the game, with whom or with what, I think it needs to be handled internally and not in the public manner as it was last night.”

On one hand, it’s amusing to see Tortorella cool off, essentially becoming Bruce Banner apologizing on behalf of “The Incredible Hulk.”

On the other hand, it’s sad that coaches risk taking a loss at the bank anytime they’re honest -- even when they might be right. They’re forced to at least make token appearances with the media when they’re angriest, yet not allowed to truly speak their minds. Seems a little unfair.

I also wonder: by apologizing, did Tortorella soften his punishment? Would the NHL have hammered Torts with the full $45K unless he meekly apologized?

Either way, it’s strange, even by the already-strange standards of how the league handles a wide variety of, er, “inappropriate behaviors.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.