On December 13, before losing 3-2 to Colorado AvalancheAnd Philadelphia Flyers Coach John Tortorella paid tribute to the veteran striker James Van Riemsdyk For his willingness to teach young players – like his new teammates Morgan Frost And Owen Tippett – while sitting on the bench between shifts.
“I could see him connecting with them on the bench,” Tortorella said. “I think for some of the guys who think they can just go out and play and not manage what’s going on, the momentum of the game, or maybe not getting through their last bout in their heads. I don’t think you’re learning. I think it’s a player who can teach all the way through a game to these guys.”
That very night, NBC Sports Philadelphia caught a shot of Van Riemsdyk and Frost, huddled on an iPad on the bench after a turnaround, potentially breaking up everything that went right and wrong.
“We took the video off the bench because we just want them to worry about their next shift,” Tortorella said. “I think it’s a big problem with us, they understand the momentum of the game. You can’t understand the momentum of the game if you’re looking at the iPad all the time. We took them off and wouldn’t even use them, until they watch the game and see what’s next.”
Predictably, Torts’ anti-technology move caused an uproar on social media the next day, due to another decision that fueled a perception of Tortorella as an old-school coach, not even willing to let kids look at an electronic tablet during games.
“I don’t give a damn about how I’m perceived,” he said on Friday.
In other words, Classic Torts.
“If I’m in business to try to make everyone happy and be seen as what you want to be understood, I don’t know. That’s a hard way to live. I really don’t give it much attention.”
It helps, of course, that Tortorella’s new anti-iPad stand isn’t exactly a classic example of “old man yelling at a cloud,” either. There is a thought process behind that, trying to respond to a team-wide problem going back weeks, in his mind. In fact, Tortorella was caught up in it on December 13, the same day he praised JvR for his teaching mindset. The team fell behind 4-3 Arizona Coyotes In the third period two days ago due to a massive collapse that led to a Nick Ritchie Maverick target. The tortilla was still swaying on it.
“We need to manage matches better,” he said. “We can’t play when it’s 3-3 and give up a breakaway. We shouldn’t even have a face-off alignment like that. So managing situations in games when we’re on the bottom line, I think that’s the biggest thing we need to improve now.”
In his view, constantly focusing on the iPad while sitting on the bench is detrimental to gamers – especially young players – and their ability to manage games. Instead of paying attention to the events of the game in the present, they look at the screen and focus a lot on the plays that have already happened.
“We have a huge problem understanding game flow. That’s the biggest reason for[the iPad ban],” he explained on Friday. “Understanding game flow, momentum swings. I think it’s very important to learn that as a young team.”
In his view, resorting to an iPad after every shift is actually counterproductive to keeping a player’s head in the game as it happens. It doesn’t help them get better – it leads to more mistakes.
He said, “I don’t want them to think too much.” “I don’t want them to think about (their last shift) when you’ll be up in another minute and a half – and I might as well put you off the next shift.”
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Travis Konicney — the culprit in that meltdown that led to Ritchie’s Dec. 13 breakup — was one of the biggest iPad offenders, in Tortorella’s estimation.
“He’s one of those people who looks at that damn thing all the time,” Tortorella grumbled on Wednesday.
But removing the tablets didn’t seem to hurt Konyi much if his bluff against the Capitals is any indication.
“Yeah, maybe he’s upset that the iPads are gone tonight,” Scott Lawton Cracked after the game. “He’s so good to look at after every shift.”
In general, the young players in the squad seem to understand Tortorella’s logic behind the decision.
“I liked to look at them sometimes, yeah. Until the last game, I remember a few times I went back to look for them and they weren’t there,” Frost said. “I mean, I think it’s a good thing. Sometimes you get a little caught up in them. It’s great for us players, sometimes you want to watch what happened, but at the same time, sometimes you just look at it to look at it. I think he’s right in the sense that It can be distracting.”
Could Tortorella be called a Luddite in some corner of social media? Definitely.
But he doesn’t care.
“You know, technology, everyone thinks technology is cool. Sometimes it is,” he admitted. “There are some important things in it. Sometimes it isn’t. And I think this is a time when it isn’t.”
It’s not like Flyers players have completely lost the ability to rewatch in-game games. There’s still a built-in video screen behind the seats at Wells Fargo Center, which Tortorella noted on Wednesday — with just a hint of regret — they can’t physically remove. And there’s still the video room that assistant coaches use in the locker room between periods if players really want to revisit a certain sequence.
But the iPads are gone. And don’t expect them to return anytime soon.
“I’m kind of locked into what I think is best for the team, and I have to make those calls,” Tortorella said. “Now, if my manager feels I’m not making the right calls, that’s when you lose your job. But I owe all my thinking work to the players. And I think that’s the right thing for our group.”
That doesn’t mean he wants veterans like JvR to stop teaching or bringing up the past plays of younger teammates during games, of course. Indeed, after a month of praising Van Riemsdyk’s willingness to do just that, he brought it up again on Friday.
“I watched JvR on the bench last night, he caught his two mates,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going to tell you what he said to him, but that was the appropriate thing to say.”
Van Riemsdyk can still teach children. Just without the iPad.
(Photo: Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)