John Tortorella: 'It's time to sever it'

Updated: November 30, 2013, 3:43 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- When Torts is in town, it's never boring.

In his first visit to Madison Square Garden since being fired last May, former New York Rangers coach John Tortorella was blunt about his intentions upon return.

"I am going to coach this game, hopefully kick their ass and get out of here," he said before Saturday afternoon's much-anticipated matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and Rangers at MSG.

Tortorella -- who took the vacant Vancouver job shortly after his dismissal, swapping coaching positions with Alain Vigneault -- was otherwise relatively subdued in his pregame news conference when asked repeatedly about his time in New York and whether this weekend's visit conjures a different set of emotions.

He was honest and frank, but not the same brash and abrasive personality that ultimately became his caricature in New York.

"It's weird," he said of the feeling being back in such a familiar building, where he coached for more than four seasons. "But, the overriding emotion is of the Vancouver Canucks trying to find a way to win."

Tortorella's visiting Canucks, a team that enjoyed a strong start to the season in a competitive Western Conference, have struggled in recent weeks.

The team knocked off the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Thursday night, though it was only their second win in a nine-game span. Entering Saturday's game, the Canucks are in ninth place with a 13-9-5 record.

Similarly, the Rangers have put forth a middling effort through the first quarter of the season, only slightly better in the standings (eighth place, 26 points) but against a markedly more mediocre crop of teams.

The two teams met once before in the pre-season back in September -- a 5-0 win for Vancouver -- but are squaring off for the first time in the regular season since the two coaches traded places behind the bench.

"John, I'm sure loved his time in New York like I loved my time in Vancouver," Vigneault said when asked about any rivalry between him and Tortorella. "We're both trying to do the same thing, [which] is get out hockey teams to win."

Tortorella said he will not have any of his family or friends in New York at the game -- "not a soul" -- and is trying to focus on only his current club, not his former one.

"I don't think you ever sever [ties]. Some of the most important things when you're all said and done with the game -- coaching, playing, whatever -- are the relationships," Tortorella said. "So, I don't think you ever totally sever it, but when you're in the middle of things and you're 30 games into it with another team, I think it's time to sever it."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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