Voted winner of the 2003-04 Jack Adams Award as the National Hockey League’s top coach after leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup, Tortorella’s championship team established franchise records with 46 wins and 106 points before embarking on the successful playoff campaign.
Tortorella has been touted league-wide for his aggressive forechecking schemes and more open offensive system, one which injects high-energy and excitement into the game for fans and players alike. His 2003-04 team tallied a franchise all-time high 245 goals as many of his Lightning players established personal bests in goals, assists and points. He now has 121 wins with the Lightning, ranking him second on the team’s all-time wins list.
The 2003-04 Lightning team was 13 points better than the 2002-03 squad, which totalled 36 wins, 93 points, won its first-ever Southeast Division championship and made its first playoff berth in seven seasons. Tortorella finished second in voting for the Jack Adams Award after that banner campaign, which happened to be 24 points better than the 2001-02 Lightning.
A 14-year National Hockey League coaching veteran, Tortorella became the fourth head coach in team history when he was named to that position on January 6, 2001. Recognized as one of the top teaching coaches in the game, the Boston native joined the Lightning organization when he was hired on as an associate coach prior to the 2000-01 season. Now in charge of the Lightning for more than three full seasons, the 46-year old Tortorella immediately brought increased expectations and a new level of accountability to the Lightning locker room.
Tortorella began his playing career at Salem State College before transferring to the University of Maine. He spent three seasons with the Black Bears and was twice named an East Coast Athletic Conference All-Star. After playing in Sweden, Tortorella played in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League with Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Erie. He spent two seasons as the General Manager and Head Coach of the Virginia Lancers (Atlantic Coast Hockey League) from 1986-87 to 1987-88, where he garnered Coach of the Year honors during both campaigns while leading his ‘86-87 team to the league championship.
Tortorella got his first major break in 1988-89 when he was hired as an assistant coach with the New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey League. He became an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres the following season, and remained with the Sabres organization through the 1996-97 season. The Sabres recognized Tortorella's teaching abilities and named him the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, prior to the 1995-96 season. His Rochester team won the Calder Cup in 1996 and followed that up with the best record in the AHL’s Northern Conference during the 1996-97 regular season.
Tortorella returned to the NHL in 1997 as an assistant with the Phoenix Coyotes, where he spent two seasons before joining the Rangers for 1999-2000. He served as the Rangers' interim head coach for the final four games of the '99-00 season before joining the Lightning staff.
John and his wife, Chris, reside in Valrico with their two children, Brittany and Dominick.
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