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Old Friends: The time John Tortorella wanted to kill happy “penguin” Barry Trotz

“Waddling like a penguin, going through everybody. I can read his lips: ‘Where’s Torts?’”

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2018 NHL All-Star - Portraits
“I just wanted to kill him.” - John Tortorella
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For all his bluster, Columbus coach John Tortorella seems like a guy with a million wild stories.

He recently sat down with The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline to chat in great detail - and with great honestly - about the Blue Jackets’ previous season and where their future is headed (as well as who’s going with them).

Tortorella also relayed a quick funny story about Barry Trotz, a longtime rival as well as a good friend going back decades. After talking about how impressed he was with the job Trotz did leading the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup, and the changes he saw in the players on the way to that Cup, Tortorella talked about an episode from years ago that illustrates the positivity that Trotz is known for.

From The Athletic (contains some NSFW language):

Have you talked to Trotz since that [Caps-Blue Jackets first round] series?

Talked to him right after the series and a couple of times since then, yeah. If we win Game 3, we win that series and Barry Trotz is fired.

You’ve reminded him of this …

(Laughs.) We didn’t get too involved in that. We talked family stuff. I was happy for him. So happy. I go way back with Barry. Remember, I was the coach in (AHL) Rochester when we won a Calder Cup (1995), and he was in Portland. That’s who we beat in the finals, seven games. So back then, the (AHL) chartered a flight with both teams on it to travel between the games. One team would sit up front going one direction, and the other would sit in the back. Then it switched for the other direction. The series is tied up 3-3, going back to Roch for Game 7. It’s our turn to sit in the back, and I’m in the way back. I watch Trotz come back from the front of the plane, waddling like a penguin, going through everybody. I can read his lips: “Where’s Torts?” This is on the flight back to Game 7! “Where’s Torts?” he’s saying, and he comes all the way through my team and comes back and sits down right next to me. I wouldn’t even look at him, I just said, “Trotzy, get the fuck away from me. I’m trying to fucking hate you right now. Get away from me!” Trotzy was just, “Come on, this is a great series!” He’s just gabbing away, going on and on about the series and this and that. I just wanted to kill him.

Anyone’s who’s ever been filled with anxiety and had someone clinging to their leg telling how great everything is can relate. That makes me want to kill people, too.

The whole lengthy interview is really interesting, even if you’re not a Blue Jackets or Tortorella fan. With impending UFA’s Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovski possibly playing their final seasons in Columbus, and longtime player Jack Johnson joining the Penguins and talking some shit on the way out the door, it’s been an odd offseason for them.

Not nearly as odd as the Islanders’ one, but still...