John Tortorella protecting players?

Updated: March 8, 2013, 12:43 PM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella says he doesn't like disclosing injuries because it's his No. 1 job to protect his players, and believes the fans and media don't have the right to know everything that's going on with the team.

Tortorella came under fire recently for responding, "None of your business," when a reporter asked him about winger Rick Nash's undisclosed injury in late February -- thought to be a concussion -- which caused him to miss four games.

Tortorella I think we need to give them what they need -- they have a job to do -- but they don't need to know everything that's going on with your hockey club and players -- including the public and the paying customers. They pay a lot of money, and we're trying to put on a good show for them, but they do not need to know everything about what's going on with our club.

-- John Tortorella

In the NFL, exact injuries are disclosed on a daily basis during the season. That isn't the case in the NHL, where teams use the more vague "upper-body" or "lower-body" areas to describe injuries.

"That's a big part of a coach's responsibility -- (whether it's) injuries and a lot of different things that come along during the season -- is to protect the player. This with the media thinking they need to get all the information, I don't agree with it," Tortorella said Thursday on the latest edition on his "Behind the Bench" coach's show on MSG Network.

"I think we need to give them what they need -- they have a job to do -- but they don't need to know everything that's going on with your hockey club and players -- including the public and the paying customers. They pay a lot of money, and we're trying to put on a good show for them, but they do not need to know everything about what's going on with our club."

Tortorella wonders if football players who are on those weekly injury reports are targeted by their opponents.

"And then you see some things in the HBO clips. Don't tell me there's not targeting going on there in football. And so that's the way football does it," Tortorella said. "Again, I'll speak on our position. We're not trying to do it the wrong way. I think it's the right way, because my No. 1 responsibility is the hockey team. No one else. Not you. Not the public. No one else except those players. We demand a lot out of them. I think it's a two-way street, and I think we need to protect them in certain situations.

"I listen to some managers, coaches, they spend 15 minutes talking about injuries. I think it's ridiculous. I'm not saying it's right. I'm not saying it's wrong. It's just the way I think it should be done for our club. Now we have upper-body and lower-body, I'd rather not even talk about it."

Tortorella said he makes it known to his players that he doesn't want them discussing injuries.

"I even tell my players, I don't even want you talking about any injury or if you're 50 percent or 75 percent. I don't believe in the percentages, either. I think it just turns into, 'Listen, I was tweaked here, and yeah I tweaked it there. Don't talk about it, OK?' And I always ask Ramer (trainer Jim Ramsay), 'Can they play? Yes or no?' I just need a yes or no. I don't want to know about percentages. I don't want to know where they're at. I want to know if they can play that game that particular night."

Tortorella nearly lost Brad Richards to a significant injury when the center was shoved into the boards by Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta. On Monday, Kaleta received a five-game suspension for the hit. At the time, Tortorella called the hit "disgusting" and believes the league has taken away the players' ability to police themselves.

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"There's always the supplementary discipline. I don't really get it sometimes. I think that's inconsistent. But forget about what the league has to do. I think the players need to police themselves a little bit," Tortorella said. "I'm all for doing whatever you possibly can to win a hockey game. That's what we're supposed to do as coaches, as players. But I just feel there's been a little bit of lack of respect as far as athletes amongst themselves. It can't come from the coaches, it can't come from the management, it can't come from supplementary discipline. It has to come from within the group there.

"The hit [by] Kaleta is just an absolute dirty hit. It's probably one of the most dirty hits I've seen this year. I don't think Brad's injured that bad but that had to be -- forget about the game of hockey -- a life-threatening-type situation the way he went in there. I don't want to get too dramatic, but it's wrong and I think it needs to come from the players themselves respecting one another.

"I've said this for years, and maybe it's a little old school, but the players need to police themselves, and the league has taken that away from them. I'm not saying it has to be back in the '70s where it just turned into a brawl. No, we don't need to go there, but the league has taken so much away from the players, I think.

"I think players don't think they're going to get hit and it ends into a huge problem because they don't protect themselves. If they let the players handle themselves and it comes from within on the ice as far as if someone cheap shots a guy, he knows he's going to pay the price later in that game without all the supplementary discipline and penalties and all that, I think the players would be more aware."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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