Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Friday that he missed Thursday's game at Nashville and is missing this weekend's All-Star festivities because one of the animal-rights activist's five dogs is in failing health.
The dog is a 10-year-old pit bull, Emma, who belongs to Tortorella's son, Nick, an Army Ranger stationed overseas.
"I needed to see this through," Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch.
Tortorella's leave was announced Thursday as a family emergency, and he said at the time only that his family was fine. Tortorella said Friday he wanted to say what the problem was after being inundated by well wishes via text message, email and social media.
"I appreciate so much the number of messages I have received since the announcement," the former Lightning coach said. "But this absolutely is not an emergency. I want to clear that up."
Tortorella has a history of supporting animal rights causes, and his family's John and Christine Tortorella Foundation has, among other things, found homes for several rescue and foster dogs. He has an affinity for pit bulls.
Tortorella was to coach the Metropolitan Division team in Sunday's All-Star Game at Los Angeles. Because he wanted to stay home in Ohio for the dog, he had to miss a regular-season game before or after the break, under NHL rules, for missing the All-Star Game. He chose to miss Thursday's game.
The league instituted the one-game suspension several years ago to stop players from faking injuries to avoid playing in the All-Star Game. The same standard applies to coaches, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.
NO NEWS IS … : Don't expect major hockey news out of the All-Star party. Many fans and players had hoped for a swift resolution to the NHL's decision on whether to shut down during next year's Olympics, but commissioner Gary Bettman has indicated that a decision is unlikely to be made during the Board of Governors meeting this weekend in Los Angeles. But Bettman will offer his opinion on the state of a league in transition, with everything from video review to the Las Vegas expansion franchise changing its face as the NHL celebrates its 100th birthday this year. The Kings, who joined the NHL in the original "Second Six" expansion, were chosen to host the weekend as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. The All-Stars haven't visited Los Angeles since 2002.