Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was battling flu-like symptoms, not channeling his inner Bill Belichick, when he wore a team-branded hoodie on the bench for a game against the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night.
Tortorella’s attempts to find warmth and comfort created a buzz on social media. Even his team’s website changed its photo to Tortorella wearing the hoodie.
Jokes were made about the Columbus Blue Jackets being renamed the Columbus Blue Hoodies. Not knowing Tortorella’s medical issues, some thought he was being a rebel with a fashion cause.
Players poked fun at their coach becoming a rogue fashion icon. See hoodie here.
“I think it’s a fine,” Blue Jackets player Brandon Dubinsky said jokingly to The Athletic. “Coaches in the NHL wear suits on the bench. He’s going to have to pay some cash into the fine fund.”
Said assistant coach Brad Larsen, who handled the postgame news conference for Tortorella: “Did you see his face? It was pretty white. He battled through. He had a tough night. I think he had about seven shirts on, and I’m sure there’s a lot of talk about the hoodie. He was shaking like a leaf.”
The NHL doesn’t have a dress code for coaches, but traditionally a coach wears a coat and tie behind the bench for games. New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz told USA TODAY Sports in 2017 that his coaching wardrobe consists of 25 suits. NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman said was superstitious about his attire, choosing sport coats and ties based on the winning percentage in games he wore them.
Tortorella isn’t the first to buck tradition with his game day coaching garb. Jean-Guy Talbot wore a warm-up suit with a turtle neck when he coached the New York Rangers in 1978-79. Robbie Ftorek opted for a sweater and tie, instead of coat and tie, when he coached the Los Angeles Kings from 1987-89.
“I’m not a big fan of being all bundled up when you work,” Ftorek told USA TODAY Sports last year. “So I said, ‘To heck with it, I’m going to wear a sweater. I felt comfortable in it.”
Ftorek started receiving new sweaters in the mail from fans. He also wore sneakers with his non-traditional coaching ensemble, but not one noticed that.
You can be sure Tortorella will receive some hoodies in the mail. Maybe he will be offered a hoodie endorsement deal. In the playoffs, will all of the Columbus fans show up wearing Blue Jackets hoodies? The team’s marketing staff is probably already considering that.