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Burke questions NHL’s decision, ‘perplexed’ by Hartley fine

Jan 20, 2014, 8:46 PM EDT

Brian Burke

Calgary Flames interim GM Brian Burke is none too pleased with the $25,000 fine given to his head coach, Bob Hartley.

“I am perplexed by this fine,” Burke said, per Calgary’s Twitter account. “I stand behind Bob Hartley completely in this regard and remain confident that he acted properly in every aspect of this game.”

On Monday evening, the NHL dinged Hartley for “conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League,” based on his actions during a fight-filled affair against Vancouver on Saturday.

“We are holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames’ right wing Kevin Westgarth, who took the game’s opening face-off and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent — the Canucks’ Kevin Bieksa,” the league said in a statement.

Hartley started Westgarth and fellow tough guy Brian McGrattan, which infuriated Vancouver head coach John Tortorella (who responded by icing NHL penalty minutes leader Tom Sestito.)

Earlier today, a report from The Province claimed Westgarth was sent out to start the game to “make something happen.” If true, that would contradict the story that Hartley told after the game regarding his choice of starting players.

“Those guys are playing well for us,” Hartley said of Westgarth, McGrattan and company. “They got a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.”

Hartley’s fine is similar to the one levied to ex-Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston earlier this year. Rolston was fined an undisclosed sum for “player selection” during a preseason game between the Sabres and Maple Leafs, one that saw tough guy John Scott go after Leafs sniper Phil Kessel.

The Rolston fine wasn’t popular among several head coaches.

“So what am I supposed to do now?” an anonymous coach asked, per the Toronto Sun. “Do I call the ref over and call timeout so I can call (league vice-president of hockey operations) Colie Campbell and ask him who I can put on the ice?”

It’s worth noting Canucks GM Mike Gillis also issued a statement in response to Tortorella’s 15-day, six-game suspension:

“We respect the decision made by the National Hockey League today to suspend John Tortorella for 15 days from Sunday, with no contact with the team for six games. 

“We would also like to acknowledge our organization’s full support for John and we look forward to having him back behind the bench soon.”

Slightly different tone there.

  1. lowenni - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    Not a fan of Burke’s at all, but like I said in the other post…if fighting is allowed to be part of hockey in the NHL (and I personally think it should be), then the NHL has no ground to fine Hartley for icing his enforcers. While I don’t agree with it morally, he’s allowed to match up whoever he wants against the Nucks, a team that wasn’t too clean itself during their roadtrip in California.

    • mp1131211 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      The only problem with what you said is that fighting- technically- is not allowed in the NHL. So they do have grounds for it according to your logic.

    • mp1131211 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:02 PM

      Still, I think this is a stupid fine. I mean what is fining the coach really going to do? If the staged fights are a problem, then deal with the fights. Otherwise, they have to start fining GMs for signing fighters under the premise that its hiring for premeditated fights. Either deal with it or don’t, but fining a coach for putting his tough guys out there is dumb dumb dumb

      • joey4id - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:46 PM

        And there in lies the hypocrisy of it all. They didn’t fine Torts for what Sestito did to Nolan and Jackman, but they fine Hartley, for his lineup which is within the guidelines of the rule book.

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 21, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        I was going to respond to the initial comment in this thread but I’ll make a point of picking on you Joey while I cover the same ground.

        Hartley was fined for sending a goon out on the opening faceoff with instructions to start a fight. As a matter of fact he sent two out knowing full well that his instructions to those players would cause at least two ejections from the game.

        To know all you need to know about Bob Hartley’s antics just check this Dave Tippett quote when he was asked about it: “Coach in the minors for five years and you see lots of stuff like that,” translation: it is bush league stuff.

        To know all you need to know about John Tortorella’s lineup choice, check Elliotte Friedman’s latest article in which he polled NHL coaches on that choice and they agreed with it.

        Bottom line, John Tortorella blew his lid during the intermission and was deservedly suspended but prior to that (and again when he lied through his teeth about it after the game) it was Bob Hartley’s actions that were embarrassing to the league and the sport.

        As for Brian Burke’s perplexedness, either we have another liar on our hands or (and I am taking the photo from this article into account) perhaps early onset dementia is a factor?

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Sorry I forgot to continue picking on you Joey, the difference here is that Tom Sestito’s fighting majors came within the course of the game and not off the opening draw, ie. they were brought upon by Sestito’s own decisions and actions which occurred as a part of play.

        Westgarth’s fighting major could not have been prompted by any actions within the game and on his own admission was a result of instructions from the coach.

        Anyone who knows anything about Hartley knows this is his MO so this isn’t exactly a surprise.

        You may not like the fact that fighting is tolerated in the league Joey, but just because you refuse to draw distinctions between fights you don’t like does not mean that everyone else views the subject with the same lack of clarity.

  2. charlieconway96 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    I wonder what Peter Gammons has to say about this?

    • 7mantel - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      Pete’s light in the loafers !

  3. Exiled1 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    Burke looks like he just got up from a nap on the couch. Someone get that guy a scotch!

    • hockey412 - Jan 21, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      That’s his perplexed look.

  4. dutchman1350 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    The is no proof Hartley sent those guys out to fight. He could have sent them out to set a tone for his team, going against a struggling Vancouver team. He also kept his mouth shut during torts’ tantrum.

    • 7mantel - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:22 PM

      You don’t really believe what you wrote or was thaw that tongue in cheek?

  5. pone27 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    Dutchman, you’re nuts.

    Set a tone? Its the opening faceoff, the flames are terrible, and they bring out 2 of the biggest goons in the league to start the game!?!

    I am sorry, I am a true Hawks fan, and I respect the game to the fullest extent. Might I add, being a born and raised NYer, and saw/heard Torts for a long time, I truly think he is not a great coach, but I have to agree with his decision.

    Plain and simple, the game does not need that. Never has in how many years the NHL has been around, whether it be during the years when fighting was a major role, or when it is frowned upon, that is never accepted. Torts did what he had to do. The only thing wrong is him going to the Flames locker room.

    Thanks for making more of a point to ditch a key aspect of the game: Generating team morale, and not promoting violence.

  6. rpiotr01 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    NHL GMs should take up a collection and buy this guy a mirror.

  7. Wineshard - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    Canucks fan here and this fine is ridiculous. I remember the Canucks normally starting Antoski/McIntyre/Tim Hunter on their 94 playoff run to set the tone.

    I have no problem having the 4th line start. I just wonder if having Westgarthal line up against Kellan Lain in his first ever game and having to fight might have been the straw that stirred this whole drink?

    Anyway, I love seeing the 6 inch boxscores in the newspaper again. Bring it on and more of it.

    • imleftcoast - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Tortorella chose to put Lain out there, but Elliot Friedman’s point was that he had no choice with Henrik Sedin hurt and the Canucks having to win that game. That’s really what ‘stirred the drink.’ That Friedman was in the minority arguing that point on Hockey Night in Canada speaks volumes to how little that program is about the Game and how much is about stroking the egos of Bettman and Campbell. The analysis on TSN puts the CBC to shame.

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        Also Lain fights all the time in the AHL.. he’s nowhere near Westgarth’s calibre at this point but it’s not like they threw a lamb to the slaughter or anything either.

  8. 950003cups - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    Is he really an albino?

  9. shortsxit34 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    “We are holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of […] who took the game’s opening face-off and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent.”

    Didn’t Vancouver get penalized for doing the same thing 3 times just this week, (Sestito twice alone)? Or is, “instigating a premedicated fight with an unwilling opponent” only “conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League” an issue once more than 2 seconds have run off the clock?

  10. canada2014gold - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    Same thing? Ugh no

  11. equator180 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Burke is a complete MESS! Clean yourself up and at least look half the man yo are supposed to be!

  12. Wineshard - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    Did you really say premedicated? This isn’t the Tour de France.

  13. hockeyflow33 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    It is fairly ridiculous to fine a coach for starting players on his roster

    • joey4id - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:52 PM

      It is a rule in the book which permits the nhl to fine a coach who puts players on the ice who engage in a fight just prior to or immediately after the face off.

      • hockeyflow33 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:56 PM

        I understand that, I just find it ridiculous

    • cardsandbluesforever - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:35 PM

      to be honest I think what got Burke fined and Tort suspended was Tort trying to go in the Calgary locker room between periods. because of that the league had to do something in response, they weren’t going to punish Tort and let Burke walk away scott free

      • hockeyflow33 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:13 AM

        Burke wasn’t punished

      • mp1131211 - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:22 AM

        How did you get four thumbs up for that?

  14. bigoldorcafromvan - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    The last time Burkie stood behind someone (Feister) he was fired within 2 weeks. Good Bye Bob. On a sidenote. Bob is gutless, he stood there behind his players hiding, and had a look on his face like it was a tv timeout commercial while Torts was ripping him. I would bet money the players on the Canucks have tonnes more respect for Torts than the Flames have for Spineless Bob.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      I don’t really understand this logic, do you expect the coaches to start fighting at center ice?

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 21, 2014 at 9:34 AM

        I don’t think it’s about the coaches fighting.

        I think everyone involved with the game knows exactly what Hartley was doing (Burkie included).

        The fact that Hartley wouldn’t even look Tortorella in the eye is pretty telling in the eyes of hockey players, keep in mind this is a game where “the code” is alive and well and people who won’t take accountability for their actions are rats. Lying about it after the game as though he expected a line combination he’d never used before, with a guy whose never played the position at center, was going to get them a goal, was just the cherry on top.

        Basically Bob Hartley conducted himself as a coach the way guys like Patrick Kaleta conduct themselves on the ice. And players hate guys like that.

  15. globaltravelwatch - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    The whole thing was premeditated and Bob Hartley deserves to be held responsible. It was bush league desperation tactics by a last place loser team who can’t put the puck in the net for the life of them. Can’t win? Okay, let’s be tough guys. This smells more like Burke than anything because this is the garbage strategy that Burke likes — another bush leaguer. If you watch the beginning of that game you see that as soon as the puck is dropped the Calgary center just drops his gloves and starts swinging. Why? Because it was premeditated and Hartley hoped that Torts would put his first line out and that line would get thrown out with the Calgary goons. Guess what, Hartley? You won’t be coaching pretty soon. Maybe you can find a job in aluminum siding sales or something. Calgary deserves better than the goon squad that Burke and Hartley want to put on the ice.

    • iowa02 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      No one seems to not be picking up on that. Torterella, for all of his faults, knew that and his reaction was pure him. Someone had to fall on their sword for this mess. Guess who. His temperamental reaction completely overshadowed why he was upset in the first place.

      Also, this has been the top sports story everywhere, even places that cover hockey as a fourth page back story. Wow. NHL can’t win for losing when it comes to press.

  16. csilojohnson - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    He wasnt fined for starting his players.. Its clearly states he was fined for planning a fight.
    You cant honestly believe the flames player had any intention on actually taking that faceoff. He was out there to start a fight. The league apparantly disaproves.
    If your going to be mad. Be mad at the reality. Not some cynical fantasy.

  17. barkar942 - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    I know that the article is about what Brian Burke said, but why do they have a picture of Foster Brooks?

  18. blomfeld - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:42 PM


    Saturday night’s game was ‘hilarious’ and it exemplified what grade-A entertainment is meant to be all about … drama, danger, excitement and everyone walking away at the end unharmed and very happy ! I’m an LA Kings fan and yet I’ve now come to really like John Tortorella. He’s a good man and he and his ilk are good for the game and the business at large.

    GO TORTS !!! :)


    • ron05342 - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:44 AM

      A blast from the past…great song.

    • slysipops - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      glad to see you back in the mix again BLOMS, you’ve been kind of quite lately …… the sly !

      • blomfeld - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:21 PM

        hello Sly … my computer was recently destroyed and so I had to get a new one here which I’ve done, though I’m still trying to get a handle on things here … your friend Blomfeld :)

  19. canada2014gold - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:03 AM

    In other news Burke would like to see less truculence from tortorella.

    • ron05342 - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:45 AM

      “Tortorella Truculence” — yes, that’s the winning phrase for this evening. :)

  20. amityvillefun - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Burke looks a little like Lloyd Bridges in Airplane! in this picture.

    “Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.”

  21. slysipops - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    i’m not a big BURKE fan, but i totally agree with him. the fine was rediculous. MAYBE the league wants the head coaches to turn in their starting line-ups to the league offices 2 hours before game time for approval ? i can see TORTS getting spanked for going into the hallway etc. , but that’s it ! if they want to pussify the game why call it the WAR ROOM in TORONTO, i’m sure a more politically correct,nicer name could be thought up. maybe one of the intermission girls ( why do we need women ?) could make suggestions? i went to a game in the old CHICAGO STADIUM years ago featuring the HAKWS vs. a game played a week beforeat the GARDEN things got a little rough at the end , so this game was built up in the press big time. EDDIE JOHNSON the BRUINS goalie said he heard the scalpers were getting $200 to $300 per ticket ( in those days $4.00 got you a first balconey seat ) …” it should be fun out there tonight ” were his words. BILLY REAY the HAWKS coach started 5 of his toughest guys and the BRUINS coach ( ?) did likewise.the antisipation at the opening drop of the puck was amazing. to say the least it was a wild night at the old barn. there were some fights ,a lot of pushing etc. , but no injuries …a great game …and a lot of excited fans !

  22. soro17 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    What seems to be lost on most here, is that the NHL likely has access to these things called phones. The decision to suspend Torts and fine Hartley was not made in isolation based solely on the CBC feed. In addition to speaking to Torts in person, they no doubt spoke with the game officials and perhaps even some of the players to get an understanding of what was said before the game and on the ice before the puck was dropped. Of course the NHL is not exactly a beacon for due process and Colin Campbell is not one of the great legal minds of our times which makes these kinds of decisions easy to mock….

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