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Canucks owner threatens legal action after papers suggest he was behind Tortorella hire

Apr 9, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

Francesco Aquilini AP

All that’s missing is a big top and bearded lady.

The media circus that is the Vancouver Canucks reached new heights on Monday, as reports surfaced of a legal letter sent from owner Francesco Aquilini to two newspapers — The Province and the Globe and Mail — that demanded retraction and an apology for articles claiming he was directly involved with the hire of head coach John Tortorella.

More, from the Globe:

 On Monday, Francesco Aquilini sent a Globe and Mail reporter a text message warning of legal action after the newspaper published a story discussing the family’s involvement in the hiring.

“I read your article today. You are a prick,” it said. Two hours later, a legal letter from the family’s counsel arrived by e-mail. It alleged defamation, sought a retraction and an apology, and threatened further action.

“The facts are that while the Aquilinis supported the decision of the General Manager, the hiring decision was his and not theirs,” lawyer Howard Shapray of Vancouver-based Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP wrote in the legal letter to The Globe.

And here’s the Province’s take:

The Aquilinis have sent legal letters to two local media members, requesting a retraction and apology for suggesting ownership had a significant role in hiring John Tortorella. (for disclosure sake, I’m not one of them)

A libel notice must be sent within six weeks of an alleged libellous statement, and is the first step if you want to sue a publisher for libel.

In writing, you need to let the author know you believe you have been libelled.

In this particular case, the Aquilinis claim the reports, one of which says Tortorella was hired by consensus, were erroneous and Tortorella was their general manager’s choice, and one which they backed.

They also claim that by writing they had a prominent role in the hiring it was designed to “incite ridicule for making bad or embarrassing judgments.”

Neither writer or publication, as of this date, are planning a retraction or apology and both stand by their stories.

Fun stuff.

Whispers of an “ownership hire” in Vancouver have been going on since the day Tortorella was brought aboard, though nothing was ever confirmed publicly. Former GM Mike Gillis previously said the hire was his call, but did throw out the idea he wasn’t happy with the direction the team was taking in an interview with Team 1040 last week.

“The running of this team is my responsibility and I really feel over the last couple of seasons we’ve chased goalposts that have been moving and got away from our core principles of how I want this team to play,” he said.

Aquilini, who turfed Gillis yesterday, will meet with the media at 1:30 p.m. ET today to discuss the dismissal — and reports suggest he could also introduce the club’s new leadership committee, which may or may not include ex-Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson or former Canucks captain Trevor Linden.

  1. patthehockeyfan - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    It makes sense now why things are as screwed up in Vancouver as they are. Owner of the team writing: “You are a prick.” Class all the way.

    And, Halford, you have a weird sense of what’s considered ‘fun stuff.’ I like it, and I’m not complaining. It’s just weird.

    • c9castine - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      sometimes people are pricks and you need to let them know.

      that being said, seems like he is the prick here.

    • semiahmoowr - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Francesco Burns needs to keep his mouth shut. He is a complete piece of work.

      • imleftcoast - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        Franceso Wang needs to not send texts like the following to members of the media:

        “I read your article today. You are a prick,”

  2. rpiotr01 - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Couple years ago his team was in the Eastern Conference Finals, and now the mere suggestion that you hired the guy is enough to cause a lawsuit. Has Torts become that untouchable, or is this owner REALLY sensitive?

    • billiam55 - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      owner seems like a douche

  3. JoeAvg - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    So basically, they’re equating support for Tortorella – a man still in their employ – with defamation. How sad is all this?

    • hockey412 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      haha man you said it before I could dammit…but I (obviously) agree…it’s just sad.

  4. clarke16 - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Wow! I think Joanna’s prancercize pants were made from Francesco’s skin!

  5. muckleflugga - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    a serious vote of confidence for the soon to be unemployed tortorella … people shedding responsibility and threatening lawsuits … my word sounds just like

    the conservative party of canada … lead by another pasty-faced self-interested stooge for big oil and big business

    good luck suing a newspaper or its employees … good luck quantifying damages when your reputation is already dog puke

    hopefully linden and nicholson can right the good ship canucks

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:50 PM

      nicholson sucks. linden is a good hire.

  6. hockey412 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    Oh man….so basically the owner of the team views being called the guy that hired Torts as “defamation”….might not be a good sign for ol’ Torts. Might want to secretly put the resume together.

    Gillis might have the media’s back in court, though.

  7. drewsylvania - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    Defensive much?

  8. joey4id - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    This is all about season ticket renewals being down. The timing of Gillis’ firing, and possible announcements of new prez and GM is no accident. The owners are distancing themselves from the hiring of Torts and [blaming Gillis] in the hopes of appeasing their fan base. The threats of a lawsuit are probably nothing more than a smoke screen.

  9. nysportsrule - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Linden was already announced as president

  10. sjsharks66 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Does anyone actually believe Torts had control over the team? It’s like the GM was behind the bench. How do you trade your 2 star goaltenders and get back such poor products from the trade, then blame the coach for not making it work? Obviously what little control Torts had in the room did not work but there is no way to blame it all on him..

  11. muckleflugga - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    i believe tortorella had a free hand from the get go … why not … the system he brought in seemed to mirror that with rangers where a modicum of success was found

    bruins –aided and abetted by a league that permits gooning bully-boy hockey in the playoffs in effort to stretch series and maximize the bleed on fans– forced canucks to try and toughen up … better they simply advanced the speed and skill game that had worked under vigneault

    canucks had a team built for run and gun … perhaps tortorella could improve the mix with stronger defence … who can blame tortorella for gillis’ blundering on two premier goalies resulting in none

    for tortorella, the wheels came off with the staged melee, blame and finger pointing and attempt to storm flames locker room … then it appeared others began interfering … too many bad cooks in a dirty kitchen

    good night irene

    • clavette - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:12 PM

      bruins –aided and abetted by a league that permits gooning bully-boy hockey in the playoffs in effort to stretch series and maximize the bleed on fans– forced canucks to try and toughen up

      still butt hurt over that cup series? i would be too if i was a canucks fan. pretty sure s*** hit the fan the second burrows bit bergeron. not the bruins fault that both the ginger twins cant play physical hockey or that luongo couldnt stop a beach ball in boston either

  12. earpaniac - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    So the hiring of Torts has been so awful that the suggestion that the owner hired him has “libeled” the owner? At least that’s what I’m getting out of all this.

  13. mzim2756 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Great “trade” for the rangers

  14. stixzidinia - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Safe to say Torts is history.

  15. everyonesuksbutme - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    The owner sounds like a loser….oops…I bet I get a letter from his lawyers….suck it up buddy this is pro sports!

  16. semiahmoowr - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    Francesco Aquilini doesn’t need the media to look bad. He has done the job just fine by himself. He has past been accused of being slumlord. He has a company(s) that have been guilty of labour safety violations and environmental damage. And according to public papers, he has been accused by his ex-wife of infidelity. He is the last person the locals want to own the club.

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