Canucks’ Tortorella Expresses Regret Having Rookie Kellan Lain in Opening Lineup


Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella expressed regret post-game for putting out rookie centre Kellan Lain in the starting lineup and having him in the middle of a line brawl against the Calgary Flames.

Flames head coach Bob Hartley submitted a starting lineup consisting of centre Blair Jones, left winger Kevin Wesgarth, right winger Brian McGrattan, and defencemen Ladislav Smid and Chris Butler.

Tortorella, who submits his lineup after the road team, countered with Lain at centre, left winger Tom Sestito, right winger Dale Weise, and defencemen Jason Garrison and Kevin Bieksa.

“Torts came in and told us that they’re starting those idiots over there, so we’re going to match that and go with it,” Sestito said. “I knew right off the hop that [McGrattan] was gonna come after me.”

And so they did.

You knew something was happening when McGrattan didn’t line up directly next to Sestito on the faceoff and there was jawing between Weise and Jones.

Then you kind of figured there was an agenda when Westgarth, who is normally a winger, lined up at centre to take the faceoff against Lain. That’s when Bieksa stepped in and told Lain he’ll take the faceoff against Westgarth.

Bieksa got himself ready for the faceoff and actually won it—that’s cause Westgarth had no interest in the draw. He threw his gloves down the moment the puck hit the ice and went after Bieksa before the linesman stepped in.

Butler and Garrison eventually paired off and started throwing punches. Bieksa found his way to Smid. Westgarth grabbed Lain by the collar as he skated by and they began throwing punches—forcing the rookie to fight.

“I see the starting lineup. I know the other guy across the bench,” Tortorella said. “It’s easy for people to say put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated. I can’t put our players at risk that way.

“With the lineup that he had, I’m not going to put those type of players and that’s what ensues.

“I’m not proud of it. I’ve apologized to every one of the players involved in it.”

Lain’s parents and one of his siblings flew in from all the way from Ontario to watch him make his NHL debut. It lasted a mere two seconds and he had to fight Westgarth, one of the league’s renowned tough guys.

“I don’t feel great about it at all especially [Lain],” Tortorella said. “That’s my biggest mistake was putting [Lain] in that lineup and I’ll kick myself forever not having someone else there.

“But I’d do the same thing again if it came that way cause I cannot put anybody else out there not knowing what’s going to happen and knowing the other guy across from me.”

Lain will go down in the history books as the fastest first career NHL fight. He’s got that going for him, I guess?