PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have hired John Tortorella as their new coach, hoping the fiery veteran can help lead them to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1975.
The hire was confirmed Thursday by a person with direct knowledge of the decision who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced. The official announcement was expected Friday.
Tortorella, who turns 64 next week, coached Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, and he also coached the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. He was fired in May 2021 after six seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tortorella is the sixth Flyers coach in the last 10 years and he will try to revitalize a dormant franchise that has just one playoff series victory since 2012. The Flyers finished with a 25-46-11 record this season under Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo and were last in the Metropolitan Division.
The Blue Jackets went 227-166-54 under Tortorella, including a franchise-best 50-24-8 finish in 2016-17. But the wheels fell off during a terrible 2020-21 season (18-26-12).
Tortorella is the second-winningest American-born coach in NHL history. He is known for his occasional temper and demanding, no-nonsense coaching style, and he has clashed through the years with his share of players.
Tortorella began his college career at Salem State (Massachusetts) and spent one year there before transferring to UMaine for the 1978-79 season to join younger brother Jim, a freshman goaltender that year.
Tortorella, one of the most physical and aggressive players in program history despite a 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame, is UMaine’s 43rd all-time leading scorer with 110 points on 39 goals and 71 assists in 99 games. He was also a reserve infielder on the Black Bears’ baseball team.
Flyers winger Cam Atkinson played under Tortorella in Columbus. He said at the end of the season the Flyers were “a pretty soft team” and a coach like Tortorella could help toughen up any franchise.
“I think it all starts with practice. You practice how you play,” Atkinson said in April. “Especially when I turned pro, I learned that from John Tortorella. He was great in that aspect. … I think going into next year, we need to find a way to have some more grit, some more jam, more ‘F you” to our game, on both sides of the puck, in our crease, defending our goalie and in their crease.”
Flyers chairman David Scott said in January that he didn’t think the franchise needed a a long rebuilding year plan and there was enough of a proven core to turn the team into a winner. Scott said he would give Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher “a blank check” to fix the Flyers.
The Flyers have pinned their hopes on Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, Travis Sanheim and goalie Carter Hart as key pieces of the future. The Flyers last played in the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 and haven’t won a championship since consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.
Tortorella is 673-541-37-132 over almost 20 seasons and emerged as the new coach out of a slew of candidates that included former Washington and Islanders coach Barry Trotz. Tortorella is only 56-64 in the playoffs with six first-round exits.
Tortorella worked this season for ESPN as part of its studio coverage.
Story by Dan Gelston. BDN writer Leela Stockley contributed to this report.