‘We’ve tried to turn this league into a no-hit league.’ Flyers’ coach John Tortorella speaks out on Garnet Hathaway ejection

      Hathaway was ejected for boarding Luke Hughes after Hughes let up on a play he believed would get called for icing.

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      You can always count on John Tortorella to have something to say.

      The Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach was upset with the state of the NHL after winger Garnet Hathaway was ejected in Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils for something that he believed should not have been a penalty.

      “I’m glad the kid isn’t hurt. A really good player, young man in this league,” said Tortorella in a post-game press conference. “But that’s a problem in our league right now. Our players in this league do not put enough emphasis on making sure you’re protecting yourself from hits like that. Making sure you absorb hits like that. We’ve kind of tried to turn this league into a no-hit league. Now people aren’t ready to be hit. I think it’s a lost art in how you take hits.”

      Hathaway received the ejection late in the first period for boarding Devils defenseman Luke Hughes after Hughes let up on the play for thinking it would be called for icing. Hughes went on to score the game-winning goal as the Devils won 4-3 in overtime.

      “I do think looking at the clip, I think he thinks it’s icing,” said Tortorella. “A mistake was made. We’ve got good refs, we’ve got good linesmen. A mistake was made last night and what bothers me is we had to suffer for that mistake, losing a player. But I believe the league, it’s a no-go. There is nothing wrong with the play. It shouldn’t even have been a penalty. It screams to the athletes in our game, be prepared to be hit, because big hits are allowed. Nowadays I’m not so sure because everyone puts their arms up when there’s a big hit. It makes me sick what goes on in the league here on big hits. That’s part of the game.

      “I’m not trying to run down the league, I just think we’ve taken away the policing of the game from the players, with all the new rules we’ve taken away the policing of the game. It should belong to the players. It comes into how the game – it’s a fast game, which is fantastic. The skill in the game is fantastic. I think some of the rule changes we’ve made have improved the game. But I just don’t think we should take the foundation of the National Hockey League out. Hits are allowed.

      “Back in the day, and I’m not trying to go way back, but you’ve got to learn how to take a hit. That’s a big play in winning games is taking a hit to make a play, and being braced to take these hits. And if you do have a big hit you shouldn’t have to fight someone two seconds later because it’s a big hit. That’s what I don’t get. Not blaming anybody, I just don’t like where that part of the game is going. That’s a foundation of the National Hockey League. It’s a man’s game. We’ve got it convoluted a little bit.”

      Tortorella is in his second season as head coach of the Flyers, with a 42-48-15 record during his tenure. He’s also been the head coach of the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets during his career that’s spanned all the way back to 1999, winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004 and winning a Jack Adams Award in 2004 and 2017.

      The Flyers will look to snap a stretch of four losses in five games on Saturday when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m. EST. They currently sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with an 11-10-2 record, and are one point behind the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

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