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John Tortorella Unplugged: His Message to Frustrated Flyers Fans

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Philadelphia Flyers, John Tortorella

New coach John Tortorella talked exclusively to Philly Hockey Now recently about a number of topics, some related to the Philadelphia Flyers, some related to his search for a farm for his four pitbulls and three horses, some related to creating an identity for his hockey team.

During the interview, which took place before the Flyers laid an egg during the start of free agency, Tortorella was asked if he had a message for the fans, many of whom are disillusioned because the team has won one playoff series in the last 10 years.

“And they probably have a right to be, too,” he said.

The Flyers’ attendance and TV ratings took a hit last season. Can Tortorella and his team bring the fans back?

“What I say means nothing,” Tortorella said. “It’s how we go about our business and what we turn into.  We’re going to try to be them (the fans). We’re going to try to join with the city and have an identity of the city – a hard-working group, an honest group.”

That’s the goal, anyhow.

“Our group is going to show up every day and try to do it the right way – and give you effort. That’s something we can control,” Tortorella said, his passion starting to come to the surface. ” …  Do we need more talent, need more toughness? Whatever we need, that’s all a process of developing (players), the draft, or whatever it may be. But the thing we can control right now is what kind of shape we’re in when coming into camp, and how we work.”

Identifying with city

He called Philly a “hard-working city, and we want to try to identify with them. We need to show who we are, and hopefully (the fans) are going to join in with us.”

The Flyers are trying to rebound from a 25-46-11 season, the second-worst campaign in franchise history. They finished at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings. This summer, general manager Chuck Fletcher made a few minor moves — trading for Tony DeAngelo was the biggest one — and he is counting on his top centers, Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes, to bounce back from injury-plagued seasons.

Ditto defenseman Ryan Ellis, whose recovery from a pelvic injury is probably the key to the Flyers’ season. Without Ellis, the Flyers look like a contender for Connor Bedard.

“I think it’s a challenge. It’s a great challenge to get the organization back on the right rail,” Tortorella said. “And as I said from the get-go, it’s always been an organization that I’ve respected. We had some wars with them. Had some great series back in the day. I just want to be a part of something and try to get some success. I want to develop some of the youth of the team and try to get us to play the right way as a team.”

He was asked what would make the 2022-23 season a success.

No predictions

“You’re asking me to predict, and I’m not making any predictions,” he replied.

No, not a prediction. But just in general teams?

“Developing the young kids. Developing a team concept and structure that they understand and that becomes our personality. Developing a personality as a team,” he said. “There’s so many different categories you can talk about. I just want to see growth. I don’t want to miss any steps as far as building that growth until you get to a kind of crescendo of just total belief in what we’re doing. Total belief in who we are. That’s a process.”

Tortorella said he was “looking to have a good first day when camp starts, and then we look ourselves in the mirror and have a better second day and just keep building that way.”

Repeats mantra

He repeated his mantra that he wants the Flyers to “develop a personality toward the city. I want us to be part of the city, and who we are is who they are. It’s a hard-working city. An honest city. People who will look right at you and say what’s on their minds, whether it be good or bad. I consider them honest. I consider it a great trait to be who you are.”

Tortorella, who says this will be his last coaching stop, knows he has been an outsider, but he wants to be part of Philly. As quickly as possible.

“Now listen. I have not lived there. I’ve been there a number of times with other teams,” he said. “I’ve experienced the crowd — against us as a visiting team, and I’ve seen how they’ve reacted to the home team, good and bad. I want to be part of that emotion. I want to be part of that enthusiasm that they bring. We’ve got to get people back in the building.

“That kind of falls on us. That’s where we make our own (statement) as a team. We have to perform the proper way and get people back in the building – and then let’s see where we go.”

Tomorrow: Tortorella talks about getting to know his players, and his thought process on naming a captain.

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