John Tortorella Thinks That Hockey Has Become A "Hugfest", Which Is The Least Surprising Thing You'll Read Today
The truth of this particular matter is that John Tortorella has, time and time again, made it evident that his personality is best described as "emotionally constipated". Therefore, a stick appearing lodged up his ass in regards to the occasional smile making an appearance during the heat of a professional hockey game is nothing if not unsurprising. The only way that condemnation of competitive cordiality could have been more on-brand would be if he had delivered it in about 100x the decibel level with a "fuck" or two forced in, so I'm not going to overreact in response to John Tortorella's feelings about the state of a sport that's not nearly as repressed as it used to be.
What I will say is that his point, if you want to call it that, should be taken as any insult by the players whose on-ice personalities he's pissing and moaning about. To imply that professional athletes, that have beat the absolute shit out of the odds to make it to the highest level of hockey, can't simultaneously deliver a joke and maintain the singular focus of outmatching an opponent with which they might harbor an off-ice relationship is nothing short of ridiculous. To assume that one must literally flash his fangs for 2.5 straight hours to play with some snarl is stupidity at its most old-school. I understand that the NHL being as much of a community as it's ever been might frighten those that would rather watch a 5-on-5 sword fight than admit their favorite sport has anything even remotely in common with the NBA (the fastest growing league in the world, mind you), but that doesn't make that line of thinking any less asinine.
Having watched plenty of puck in the early going, the only way I can justify labeling hockey a "hugfest" is if headlocks, face-washes, and other acts of irritability are included in that definition. I imagine the type of affection that the Blue Jackets' Head Coach shows compares favorably to an awkward tug-a-war between his hyper-masculinity and his insecure vulnerability, so - when you consider the source - the take does make some sense. Still, from what I can tell, there's certainly been no lack of pushing, shoving, or exchange of other "pleasantries" post-whistle (which, by the way, seems entirely unnecessary at times).
To put it simply, if the "problem" is that the NHL is no longer employs 20 to 30-something year olds whose ill-humored mannerisms are that of people who desperately need to get laid then you won't find me looking for a solution to anything other than John Tortorella's emotional anal blockage. Hockey is still played with plenty of hate, it's just not exclusively (and archaically) expressed in physical face punches and conversational dick-measuring contests anymore.