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Flames coach Hartley fined $25,000, held responsible for ‘premeditated fight’

Jan 20, 2014, 7:48 PM EST

Bob Hartley AP

Moments after suspending Canucks head coach John Tortorella for 15 days (six games), the NHL fined the target of Torts’ ire — Flames bench boss Bob Hartley – $25,000 for “conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League.”

“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.

On Saturday, the Canucks and Flames engaged in a line brawl two seconds into the contest. Hartley started Westgarth and fellow tough guy Brian McGrattan, which infuriated Tortorella (who responded by icing NHL penalty minutes leader Tom Sestito.)

Tortorella proceeded to scream at Hartley during the first period and, during the intermission, went into the Calgary dressing room tunnel to get after the Flames’ coach. Tortorella is now forbidden from having contact with his club until Feb. 2.

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 and company. “They got a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.”

Hartley’s fine is in a similar vein 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.

Related: Torts reform: NHL suspends Tortorella 15 days — six games — for antics vs. Calgary

  1. storminator16 - Jan 20, 2014 at 7:55 PM

    I can count on one hand some of the tomfoolery Hartley has done with his “player selection” or ““conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League” going back to his stops in Colorado and Atlanta. That’s just Hartley…many of us can go on all day about other coaches. Fining coaches because a bunch of wussies on the Internet get their panties in a bunch…well, that’s just plain goofy. Make a rule instead of making one up, boys.

    “Conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League” That makes me laugh.

    • elvispocomo - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:19 PM

      I don’t know how they’d phase any such rule. They can’t just say you aren’t allowed to start “the 4th line” or “players that lead the team in penalties minutes” so how you define it where it’s provable is a bit tough.

      It’s fairly obvious there was at least some intent on Hartley’s part or that he’d understand this could be a possible outcome, but how do you prove it? It’s something they know they want to reprimand the coaches for, but short of calling it something related to “personnel selection” I think it’s fine it falls under a general rule.

      • shortsxit34 - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:35 PM

        They have talked about handing out extra misconducts to players that take part in a “staged” fight, but the owners and NHLPA both shot it down immediately.

        Outside of that I think it will be pretty tough to make these calls–they basically have to prove a coaches intent.

    • charlieconway96 - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:43 PM

      Agreed. The NHL seems so confused these days. Hockey is hockey, these things happen. I would be willing to bet that if Torts hadn’t caused the scene that he did, there is no way Hartley gets fined.

      The NHL will never be as big as the NFL, MLB or NBA. This is due to the fact that most people will never have a chance to actually play. With all of those other sports its easy to just go out in your yard or driveway and toss a ball around, people can relate easier.

      Let hockey continue be the amazing and most exciting and fun to watch sport that its always been. People love hockey how it is. Aside from some disgruntled commenters on the interwebs and an aging baseball writer who’s barely taken seriously in his own sport anymore.

      • press270 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:54 PM

        The NHL doesn’t have to prove anything. This is no court of law. This is a business, a business of entertainment. The idea is to put eyes on TVs (preferably cable or pay-per) and butts in seats (preferably with 9$ beers). Also, to generate interest to put pee-wees on the ice in every city possible. Can’t build and maintain a league without a continual churn of fresh talent (meat). That’s it, that’s prime motivation. How to do that? The folks in NHL spent all day, every day, thinking about that. Do you?

        They are trying to protect the game from becoming something akin to wrestling on skates. That will repulse fans. And pee-wee parents. Not die-hard fans like us, but casual fans, that back-up to season-tix holders on off-nights.

        If what you saw Messr Hartly and Torts do was ‘attractive’, the NHL disagrees with you. They think that repels nascent fans and hockey moms. Bad for the game. I agree. There’s lot of violence on TV; hockey cannot compete with cage-fighting, WWF. Hockey competes with synchronized, organized SPEED and skill, strength, endurance, strategy. Like Chicago/Bruins game on saturday. Pure magic. (nice ratings too). It doesn’t compete on violence. Benns’s elbow, that’s violence.

        I’m 55yrs old and still play(in the growing hockey town of Columbus). The only thing that makes me want to stop is violence, for the sake of violence. That’s not hockey. The coaches and players all know it when they see it, especially the pros. Up to the league, players, coaches to control it. More speed, less violence! :)

      • press270 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:03 PM

        “these things happen”? “these things” happen because coaches think it’s acceptable and/or possible fines are not so bad. Crank up the fines, it stops. 25K, 15game suspensions. it stops.

        “never a chance to play”. I agree. but the NHL’s job is to pump up interest. roller hockey, stick-and-ball hockey, exist where ice is difficult. make it interesting, exciting, add personality, it’ll grow.

        of course whether that’s a good thing I don’t know. I used to pay 20$ for scalped Bluejacket ticket. today, rarely pay less than 60$. oh well… that’s growth for you!

  2. jimw81 - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    how can anyone from league tell what are they doing or what is the game plan from the beginning. plus there is a on ice official during warmups. nhl just sending the message you can only start your three lines to start a game.

  3. sjtorpitt - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    How? Are you retarded?

  4. luz56 - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    The only thing the Flames do well at is putting McGrattan on the ice and watching him pound people.. Outside if that it’s brutal season in Alberta

  5. lowenni - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    Hard to disagree with the fact that it was premedidated…but if the league is gonna let fighting be part of hockey, then they have no ground to fine this. We all know what his intentions were with starting his enforcers, but he’s allowed to do that. I didn’t like Hartley’s decision and find it very unclassy, but last I checked “unclassy” was not enough to fine a man $25,000.

    • charlieconway96 - Jan 20, 2014 at 8:57 PM

      I agree. As long as fighting is in the game you will have situations like this, always have always will and thats fine with me. This would be a non issue if Torts hadn’t taken it to the next level and forced the NHL to take action. Still not sure why they had to fine Hartley.

      • lowenni - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:02 PM

        I had no problem with Torts’ being furious at Hartley or even yelling across the benches. I would’ve been furious too, it was wrong of Hartley to ice his goons against the Sedins. But his going into Calgary’s hallway warranted action and was too far and the NHL had no choice but to suspend him. It was stupid of him, but I actually sort of respect him for it. Shows a lot of passion and heart, it wasn’t him out there, he just really cares about his players. If I was a Nucks player, that’s the type of coach I’d want to play for. Say what you will about Tortorella, but there’s no denying he’s got a serious passion for coaching.

      • charlieconway96 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:07 PM

        While the whole going to the opponents room thing is pretty unprofessional and frowned upon, it reminds me of what just about every single hockey coach I had growing up would have done.

        Maybe he should just stick to throwing stuff at fans, apparently that is more acceptable than trying to confront the opposing coach who ignored you while on the bench.

  6. hockeyflow33 - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    This sends a good message to the 4th liners across the league, sure you’re in the NHL but there’s no way you can start or we’ll fine your coach

  7. canada2014gold - Jan 20, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    Jimw81 you are clueless. Westgarth was out there to brawl that’s why he grabbed bieksa unprovoked, you know because the game didn’t start yet. That’s how you can tell that Hartley and Burke are full of it. Well a half descent hockey fan could….

  8. 950003cups - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    #FreeTortsNow

  9. nicofthenorthstar - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:00 AM

    Good

  10. nicofthenorthstar - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    Press270: well written, well considered posts. Some of us could learn a thing or two on what a worthwhile comment board contribution looks like. Thanks for taking the time to express ideas that I couldn’t have said better.

  11. amityvillefun - Jan 21, 2014 at 7:13 AM

    This fine should be appealed. Utter nonsense! Is the NHL going to tell coaches which lines they can play and when? Isn’t it a strategy to use your 4th line to shut down an opponent’s top line?

    I see ZERO problem with starting a game with your 4th line! NHL is getting over-involved trying to “clean up” the game.

    • gret9 - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      The players Hartley had out there showed NO interest in or made any attempt to play hockey. The Blackhawks often play their 4th line against the other teams top line, but they also play hockey, they don’t all drop their gloves and engage the other team in a line brawl the second the puck is dropped.

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