New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game One

Editor’s Note: Dave Lozo worked for for five years, three months, and 19 days (seriously), and finally left after getting his resumé to the point where he was qualified to write somewhere as prestigious as Backhand Shelf. (I kid, I kid.) 

His time in NY involved spending four years dealing with ex-Rangers’ coach John Tortorella – this is his behind-the-scenes personal account of that experience. This was originally posted on his Tumblr, and is being republished with his permission.


The old press room in Madison Square Garden was a fitting setting for my introduction into covering John Tortorella. The tiny quarters had a suffocating, claustrophobic feel. The room was encased by cement bricks and filled with 20 or so metal folding chairs that faced a stage that held a table and chair where Tortorella would sit and answer – or usually, not answer – questions from the assembled media.

If a prison had a press conference room, this would have been it.

It was September 2009, and my extensive professional hockey writing experience totaled one Western Conference Final game and four Stanley Cup Final games, all of which were contested at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit the previous summer. I found myself covering these very important games after writing stories off conference calls in the earlier rounds that the usual writers couldn’t do because of travel situations.

It turned out my reward for that three weeks of work was four years covering the scariest coach in the NHL.

There’s no way to ever relay the terror that comes with that first press conference involving Tortorella. I had seen the videos, heard the stories and knew what to expect. Seeing as how it was my first day, I planned to simply sit back and watch the beat writers ask their pre-game questions and see how it went.

As became his routine during the season, Tortorella hobbled into the room with Rangers PR star John Rosasco at his side. Tortorella had a hip issue during the season that he would get corrected afterward, but it did nothing to soften his gruff personality. Tortorella walked up the three stairs, examined the chair and table as if it didn’t belong there, sat down, and looked out onto the gathered reporters with a long, deep sigh as if he were an 11-year-old and the human beings in the room were green beans he had to finish if he was going to be allowed to play video games later.

Even without asking a question, I could see where Tortorella’s reputation came from. He wasn’t particularly disrespectful on this occasion, but it certainly gave one a glimpse into how he viewed reporters. “Get me out of here, JR,” was always the primary thought in Tortorella’s head. And after answering some questions about expectations for the season and line combinations, something he did early in his time in New York, he hobbled off the stage and back to the one place he felt comfortable – the locker room.


It took me about two weeks to build the courage to ask a question. I had what I felt was a good feel for the man at that point, so now I just had to step up to the plate and do it. After a handful of games, it became easy to identify the people who regularly asked questions and those who sat on their hands, and I didn’t want to be in the latter group. What’s to be afraid of anyway? What’s the worst that can happen?

I can assure all the tough guys and brave women out there who feel the media are cowards and if you were there, you’d ask Tortorella all the tough questions. Imagine being in high school and trying to build the intestinal constitution to ask out your biggest crush, except instead of her just saying no, she says no with a laugh, does so in front of all your peers and with cameras rolling and it winds up on the Internet forever.

That’s the game. That’s the pressure.

Finally, I asked about Henrik Lundqvist after a win, the softest softball to ever be lobbed at a coach, and he answered like any normal coach would. I wondered if he did so because of my obvious nerves and the fact my question sounded like it was rehearsed in my head for 30 minutes – it was – and took pity on me.

But just like that, I felt indoctrinated into the Tortorella’s world. I wasn’t a beat reporter in the strictest sense – I didn’t travel for road games and made trips to the practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y., a handful of times a year – but I was there for all the home games and every game and practice for the postseason, but I felt part of the group that lived in light fear of the unprovoked Wrath of Torts.


As the years went past, it seemed that Tortorella’s disgust with reporters only grew. Everyone loves to point to his tête-à-têtes with Larry Brooks, but that was only the public tip of the iceberg. Not that Tortorella was ever an open book during his first two seasons with the Rangers, but it seemed that entering his third year he decided to rip out all the pages of his book.

I have distinct memories of Tortorella in the cement prison cell discussing why he liked Brandon Dubinsky on that line or Vinny Prospal on this line, but lineup questions as the years progressed where rejected with extreme prejudice. Tortorella famously would never talk about the other team or injuries, but his inconsistency with the latter was something that never seemed to register in his mind. He never understood that reporters have a job to do, and one of them is asking about injuries, even if you’ve said in the past you’re not answering them.

The grave dancing that took place after Tortorella was fired was met with mixed reactions: some saw it as the inevitable result for years of bullying reporters, others saw it as tasteless whining from people who couldn’t handle someone not answering dumb questions.

If Tortorella only gave one-word answers for moronic questions – I can probably relate a dozen stories about reporters asking why he used a timeout in a situation where it was evident he wanted to get his players a breather because of an icing during an extended shift – it would be one thing, but he could be a prick when it came to fair questions, tough questions or even softball questions he felt we writers should already know the answer to.

Tortorella was a walking contradiction – he never wanted to offer any information, and yet he’d scold you for a question because you didn’t have the basic information any other coach would have offered on multiple occasions in the past.

Another reason to cut slack to those asking dumb questions of Tortorella is on top of the fear that comes with dealing with a bully, this particular bully also had a series of ground rules that changed the normal dynamic between coach and reporters. Instead of just thinking of a question and asking it, you had to think of a question, decide if he thought it was appropriate, and if it wasn’t, think of another and repeat the process.

Some of the many rules you had to follow during a Tortorella media availability included:

1. Don’t ask about the other team.

2. Don’t ask about injuries.

3. Don’t ask about the lineup.

4. Don’t ask about individual players after a loss.

To avoid lineup questions, he had JR sending texts to beat reporters on gamedays about the lineup. Texts reading, “Lundqvist in net. Boyle out, Miller in” were Tortorella’s childish way of trying to avoid a question about the lineup, but all they did was invite pre-game questions about why Miller was in and Boyle was out. A big part of Tortorella’s problem was he always believed he was the smartest guy in the room during a press conference, when really he was never in the top 10.

Of course, these were rules Tortorella himself would deviate from.

Sometimes without prompting, he’d go into how well someone on the other team played, but a follow-up question about that player would yield nothing.

Just this past season, Tortorella would not go into the specifics involving Brad Richards’ injury stemming from a hit from behind by Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta, yet talked openly about a foot injury that was hampering Chris Kreider. Sometimes he had to talk to Rammer, other times he didn’t, apparently.

Perhaps Tortorella’s most famous bit of prickery came during the second round of last year’s playoffs when Pat Leonard asked a question about bumping Derek Stepan to a higher line, when Tortorella cut him off and said, “Stop coaching Pat.”

Grave dancing isn’t my thing, but it’s hard to not allow some of it from those who had been crapped on for four-plus seasons.


My biggest beef with Tortorella wasn’t him giving one-word answers when someone was in need of a quote. If you phrase your question where the answer simply could be yes or no, then that’s what you deserve. It happened to me several times, and I’d either follow it or up or go about my business, as he liked to say. While I’m about 88 percent sure Tortorella didn’t know my name, he never once disrespected me.

But it didn’t make it any better when he disrespected others.

During the 2012 playoffs, Brian Boyle suffered a concussion (another injury Tortorella simply offered to the media the night in happened) and missed three games. He returned for the Game 2 of the second round, a game the Rangers lost 3-2 to Washington. Boyle played reasonably well in his third-line role: He had one shot in 15 minutes but lost the faceoff that led to Alex Ovechkin’s game-winning power-play goal in the third period.

It was the third or fourth question of the postgame press conference in which Tortorella was clearly pissed off because, you know, the media lost Game 2: “How did Brian Boyle look out there?”

It’s his first game back, he’s been in a big part of the lineup all season, it’s a question someone was going to ask, but for this unsuspecting, unfortunate soul, it was him.

“I’m not answering that question from YOU.”

It’s hard to truly convey in words just how hateful and demeaning that sentence was. He really laid the YOU on thick, too, saying it as though if someone else had asked that harmless question, he would’ve answered, but unfortunately a complete moron I don’t respect asked so go fuck yourself, asshole.

This was the exact moment I made the executive decision to never ask Tortorella another question. It was a futile endeavor, anyway. Why waste breath on him when he’s only going to tell you what he wants to tell you and I can get better insight about the psyche of the team from guys like Boyle, Marc Staal or Dan Girardi.


“John Tortorella is a good guy, that’s just how he is with the media.” “That’s just who he is. He doesn’t play favorites.” “He does charity work so how can he be a bad person?”

Those are three of the most prominent defenses of Tortorella, all of which come across as laughable.

Is there anything better than interviews with the neighbors of a mass murderer? A man or woman looking into the news camera and talking about how great that neighbor was. Oh man, he was so quiet and kept to himself, but he kept his yard really clean and never bothered anyone. He was a pretty great neighbor, all things considered.

The people he murdered, however, probably have a different opinion about the man.

I can’t judge a person by who he is purported to be when I’m not around; I can only judge his actions – four years’ worth – when I’m in his presence. The fact that Tortorella’s heart is poured into a charity involving dogs – not people, dogs – really captures his essence beautifully. The notion that charity work automatically makes someone a good person is like saying someone with a college degree has to be intelligent. There are plenty of exceptions.

Tortorella’s combative nature with those reporters he sees every day seemed to dissolve away at the sight of a big-time national writer at one of his press conference. “Hi, Pierre,” Tortorella would say with a smile as he stepped to the microphone. “Hello, Darren,” Tortorella would offer to his pal. If an old TSN cohort or someone with a national presence was in the room, the made-up rules to insulate himself from the media would go by the way side. If one of them would ask about the lineup, he’d muster something far beyond the one-word answer the beat guys would’ve received.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but Tortorella is the first person I’ve ever met who I believed had both an inferiority and superiority complex. He arrived in New York seemingly petrified of what the New York media would do to him, so he took preemptive steps to guard against them, when in reality, a standard coach/media relationship would have served him better. Like any bully, Tortorella deep down was afraid of the media, and out of that was born a four-year adversarial relationship that wasn’t even necessary in the first place.

Eventually, Tortorella stops being scary. For me anyway, it went from asking a scary coach a question to asking your crazy uncle a question to I’m going to avoid the crazy homeless man altogether and walk on the other side of the street.

Tortorella slowly devolved from curiosity to side show to full-on clown. His demeanor made him an unnecessary part of the job for many writers, and his demeanor eventually made him completely unnecessary to the New York Rangers.

Comments (40)

  1. Good Lord.

    He’s a hockey coach and an asshole, he’s not a knife wielding maniac with a body count in every city he’s been to. This idea that grown men were afraid or intimidated by him is crazy.

    No one likes to be berated but it’s not as if sports reporters and columnists have never written nasty things or even called for a guy to lose his job. It’s not like you had to take it sitting down, unlike players he had no say in your livelihood. You had outlets to respond.

    If you guys know you weren’t getting anything out of him, don’t go to the pressers. Yes, it’s your job but if he’s not enabling you to do your job, don’t give him the satisfaction and maybe force his hand with the team or the league. Or better yet, get together and decide to ask the same question or some sort of other push back.

    I wonder what reporters in other fields who are treated worse more often and aren’t expecting to be hand fed information from a primary source think of the constant bitching from sports reporters who have a sad a coach wasn’t nice to them. My guess is they are decidedly unimpressed.

    I get Torts is an asshole, and as a Rangers fan I’m glad he’s gone but come on guys, give it up already.

    • I too find it funny how the media will write this stuff after the fact when they should have been writing it when it was happening to them. Grave dancing is a sign that they were afraid of him but it is also a bigger sign that none of them ever realized.

      John Tortorella was in fact way smarter than any of them.

      John Tortorella got the media so pissed off at him that they focused so much on him rather than the failings of the team. I disliked Tortorella because I thought he was a poor teacher of a coach.

      But Tortorella was able to keep the media focus on him rather than why Gaborik wasn’t scoring or why Richard’s game has left him. The Bully act was clearly designed to protect Tortorella from having to answer the real questions.

      And lets be honest here it worked quite well as even Lozo admits he stopped asking him questions. I would say Tortorella was in fact way smarter than the media gave him credit for being.

  2. Really interesting stuff.

  3. An absolute ignorant arrogant ego maniac. This man disgusts me and should be put out to pasture

    • Well he’s writing for Backhand Shelf now, so I think that’s as close to being put out to pasture as you can get.

      OH, you mean’t Torts….

  4. That was an interesting read. Being a Leafs fan we saw something “similar” if you can use that word, how Ron Wilson treated the Toronto media. He had no respect for any of the writers and was always sarcastic. It was refreshing when Randy Carlyle came on board and understood the writers are doing their job to report back to the fans who want to hear what they have to say. From what I heard Randy toned down his abrassive past approach to coaching and dealing with the media. I find him refreshing. I have never had any respect for Torts and hope he NEVER gets another job coaching, or in the media. He is an asshole.

  5. Thumbs up for the honesty. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

  6. I believe there were 3 conference final games played this weekend and this is what you are offering your readers?

  7. This was brutal and, frankly, embarrassing to read. A lot of these reporters are coming out with these unnecessary articles in which they feel they’ve won or had the last laugh (Most egregious: Pat Leonard’s “Stop coaching, Torts” lede). Enough. Tortorella never cared about you then and he certainly doesn’t now and the truth is that no one else does, either. You’re actually giving his behavior more credibility. The job of a reporter is simple: report what happens and what is said. You’re never supposed to make it about yourself, let alone make yourself a victim as you and the rest of the NY media have here. The only respectable NY media member covering the Rangers is Brooks. Unlike cowards like yourself, he continued to ask his questions, write his articles and go toe to toe with the coach regardless of what came back his way.

    Congrats on making the “executive decision” to never ask him another question last year. That’s almost impressive as writing this article now that Tortorella is gone.

  8. You had me until you kinda compared him to a murderer.

    Then again, the argument can be made that he’s murdered the careers of quite a few people…

  9. Funny to hear someone from the media crying about how they were treated and comparing JT to a serial killer. There are more than enough scumbags and morons in the media, only fitting that they have to deal with a guy like this once in a while.

  10. Thanks for the inside perspective Dave. Very interesting.

    I never really understood the defense of some people that said “well reporters shouldn’t ask stupid questions”. From the press conferences I watched, he behaved rudely even if it was a completely fair question. These reporters were just doing their jobs and he, for some reason, felt the need to make their jobs harder. And, by extension, he was saying “screw you” to the fans, since we are the ones reading these articles and looking for this information.

    You don’t have to like doing press conferences or the reporters. But at least treat your fellow humans with respect. Torts didn’t do that. I was bullied back in the day. He reminds me of those bullies, who get their rocks off by making you feel like insignificant specks of dirt.

    Hopefully he learns from this, and treats people better next time.

    • Well said, Noodle.
      It’s a shame that folks are writing Dave off as a wimpy, eogtistic, whining lack of a man and an unworthy writer, but how many people who’ve said as much have experienced the trials and tribulation of a beat writer?

      Allow me to illustrate with an example. If a customer visits a restaurant, makes a damn mess (napkins on the floor, ketchup everywhere, berates the waiter), well, when the staff takes issue, do you then call the staff all morons and wimps for not being able to handle a little heat? Do you call the staff out for being whiny, incompetent, and lacking capacity or balls to do their job? Most of the population would say no, and conclude that the customer exhibited an undue share of jackassery.

      Torts may not be a bully by textbook definition, but he has always exhibited that jackassery and intentionally made writers’ lives just that much more difficult. It’s a lack of respect and common courtesy Torts displays to the media that is unacceptable. This article was Dave’s speculation and inside thoughts on Tort’s poor relation with the media and he is sharing with us how he dealt with it as a writer. Why are folks finding his thoughts so unreasonable?

      • Probably because he paints himself as a whiny whimp, or worse, as someone who knew better than a guy who is a Stanley Cup winning coach. There are certain demands that come with any profession, if you’re a waiter you take on the responsibility of dealing with the occasional messy table, if you’re a lawyer you take on clients that call at 6 on friday demanding 24 hours worth of work on Monday morning, and if you’re a sportswriter you take on the fact that some of the people you cover want absolutely nothing to do with you and are not going to hide it. If you don’t have thick enough skin to handle someone being rude to you get out of the profession, you don’t belong. I don’t get the sense that Lozo actually has that issue, but he does succeed in writing a cowardly piece that comes off as nothing more than someone puffing out their chest and acting tough when the person they’re calling out is restrained.

        • In this analogy, Torts walked into the restaurant every day for four years, shat on the table, and walked out.

  11. Apparently reading comprehension got the better part of some of you guys while you were in school.

    He didn’t compare Torts to a serial killer. He used an analogy.

    How can anybody sit here and say that the media has no right to publish articles ripping Torts after he was fired, when the guy was literally the biggest dick in the league to all of them for 4 years? There aren’t many coaches with multiple youtube videos dedicated to berating members of the media.

  12. I only ever covered nice coaches, thank god. I’d have cried daily if I’d had to face that crap. Got enough of it from a GM who wasn’t necessarily combative but certainly seemed to enjoy yanking my chain and treating me like I was stupid. Embarrassing for them when it’s clear that it’s just fear on their part of saying the wrong thing.

    Folks who are calling the media a bunch of crybabies for writing about this obviously haven’t had to make a living as a beat writer. I can’t blame them at all for a little “ding dong the witch is dead” delight.

    The other thing is that when the coach doesn’t answer these very basic questions, then more people have to go bother the players for answers. I’m sure that didn’t help their mounting displeasure with him.

  13. “A big part of Tortorella’s problem was he always believed he was the smartest guy in the room during a press conference, when really he was never in the top 10.”

    That line is such fucking bullshit and it makes you look like an absolute twit Dave. Tortorella wasn’t in the top 10 smartest guys in the room when it came to talking about the hockey team he fucking coached? Are you kidding me? You actually think you had a clue don’t you? That’s cute.

    The guy was an asshole through and through when it came to the media, and likely got to that point with his team, but to pretend you, or the assorted scribes you worked with, are even remotely close to being in the same league as the guy when it comes to the topic of hockey is laughable.

  14. Fascinating insights for sure, but Torts was an ASSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLE plain and simple. I did the JIG all day when i heard the GREAT NEWS.

  15. Gonna cry Dave? Don’t have the balls to handle some heat?

    You sound like a little girl. Go grow a set or start writing for Woman’s World.

    I will not read one more of your moronic articles – you clearly are a p*ssy.

    Don’t cry – the truth hurts sometimes… The fact your jealous of someone who can make the industry and your stuck on the side writing about it while your feelings get hurt is telling. Go pick up your quilting needles….

    • Well someone here has issues with females.

    • Holy crap that is so over the top sexist it is amazing. Let’s see, if we include the ‘crying’ shots as sexist (and I think that’s a safe assumption in this case) I’m counting one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight distinct sexist remarks. You win at sexism. Also, it’s ‘you’re.’

    • /prints comment
      /attaches “Sexist Comment of the Year” ribbon

    • Won’t type “pussy” – too much of a gentleman.

  16. I always figured that Torts didn’t want to be there, but had to (because, you know, it’s a part of his job). So he made it as unpleasant as possible so that he’d get as few questions as possible and get done with it sooner rather than later. Looks like you helped with that Dave, since you stopped asking him questions.

  17. maybe Dave should watch 24/7 again and see John with his disabled non-animal friend. im sorry he made your job more difficult then it had to be somedays,


  19. This is garbage.

  20. Maybe grumpy and a loudmouth but Bully?

    Bully definition
    A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

    did he intimidate or harm anybody?

    Pittsburgh is being outplayed and outclassed,
    do you think Shero is going to be fired

  21. What everybody fails to see is that that sort of attitude with the médias was certainly not limited to that group of human beings, and as such, this means that he treated the players, and potentially his superiors with this kind of attitude. Clearly, it has served up well, taking him up to the big leagues, but eventually, this is what got him there that also gets him ejected. The fact that the writer relays his perceptions on the whole thing does not change the fact that in all likelihood, Tortorella had some inability with the médias, and with other people.

  22. Good article, Tort behaved like a disrespectful jerk, good riddance! And he was a bully,ever see him unleash on DZ! There’s a reason he gets along better with animals, he has awful people skills.

  23. this guy is so biased against Tortorella, he’s a stanley cup winning coach. bill bellichick, greg poppovich( occasionally) are not the easiest to interview but you don’t hear about that because they win. so get off Tortorella’s dick Lozo

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