LOS ANGELES — To some people, the absence of irascible coach John Tortorella would be seen as something between a relief and a blessing. Not so for Ryan McDonagh, though. The Rangers captain and All-Star representative was looking forward to seeing and playing for his former coach again this weekend.
Tortorella had been scheduled to coach the Metropolitan Division team in Sunday’s three-on-three tournament that comprises the National Hockey League All-Star Game. He withdrew because of what was first called a “family emergency” but was later clarified as a sick dog. Tortorella has a foundation for dogs and his canine interest is a key common thread between him and his boss, John Davidson, the Columbus Blue Jackets president.
The dog that is ill is a 10-year-old pit bull that belongs to his son, a U.S. Army Ranger serving abroad, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
“I am a little disappointed. It would have been fun to see him,” said McDonagh, who broke in under Tortorella when the latter coached the Rangers. “We had the World Cup together, it was great to have him back in the locker room, leading us. It would have been a unique dynamic to see how intense he would have been, how funny he would have been. I’m sure just like any other thing, if he came all the way out here, he would have done his best to win. I’m sad to see him not make it.
“He was my first experience with an NHL coach. I thought it was great, as a young player, that intensity that he brings and the importance he had on preparation, making sure you stayed in the moment,” McDonagh said. “That’s huge for a young player. It was great for me to get that mindset.”
The league announced yesterday afternoon that Wayne Gretzky will coach the team that also will include Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares.