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Flyers’ John Tortorella on Ivan Provorov: ‘Why Would I Bench Him?’

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John Tortorella, Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella continued to show support for Ivan Provorov before the team’s morning skate Thursday, and he seemed miffed that some questioned whether he should have benched the defenseman Tuesday.

Provorov, 26, citing religious beliefs, did not participate in the Flyers’ pregame warmups before Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Anaheim. The Flyers wore LGBTQ+-themed jerseys and had rainbow tape on their sticks during Pride Night warmups.

“Provy knew he would have some blowback,” Tortorella told reporters Thursday in Voorhees. “That’s part of the business. That’s part of what you go through. But I respect him, as far as being true to himself as I said the other night.”

Added Tortorella: “As I said, Proy did nothing wrong. Just because you don’t agree with his decision doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.”

He referenced a statement he made in 2016 about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protesting racial inequality and the oppression of Blacks in America.

“That’s when Kaepernick was sitting (during the national anthem). He wasn’t kneeling. He was just sitting at that time,” he said. “They asked me if a player sits, what would you do? And what did I say? I said a player would sit the rest of the game. I was wrong. I learned a lot through that experience.”

‘Disgusts me’

He said a protest about the flag during the national anthem “disgusts me. To this day. It shouldn’t be done. Those are my feelings. I can’t push those feelings onto someone else.”

Torotrella said it was “the same situation here. Provy’s not out there banging a drum against Pride Night. He quietly went about his business. Him and I had a number of conversations to how we were going to do this. You have your team, you have him, you have all this going on.”

The rest of the team took part in the Pride Night warmups.

Scott Laughton, the only Flyers player to wear a leadership letter (“A”),  has been one of the team’s most outspoken supporters of the LGBTQ+ community.

Tortorella said he “talked to Laughts. went through the whole process there. He (Provorov) felt strongly with his beliefs, and he stayed with it. And this was discussed prior to (warmups)”

The veteran coached appeared surprised he was asked Tuesday if he had considered benching Provorov for his decision. Provorov played 22-plus minutes in the Flyers’ easy win.

“I’m trying to make a correlation as to how I was wrong,” he said. “You asked me if I was going to bench him. Why would I bench him?  Because of a decision he’s making on his beliefs and his religion?”

Tortorella put the Provorov decision aside, and called it a “great night for Pride Night. Players were involved. The building was filled. There was awareness and everything. Provy didn’t actively seek out and try to make a stand against it. He just felt he didn’t want to take warmup. I respect him for his decision. I thought the team handled themselves well.”

He added that “the whole organization handled itself well to make sure we didn’t lose sight of that night.”

In a radio interview the other day, he said Tuesday’s developments brought the team together, and there was no animosity toward Provorov.

Tortorella reiterated that Thursday when asked if he was concerned the team was splintered by what occurred.

“Not for a second,” he said, adding it “bonds a team to go through something like that.”

Chicago in town

The Philadelphia Flyers (18-19-7) host the Chicago Blackhawks ( 12-26-4) tonight and have a chance to go over “hockey .500” for the first time in as little over two months.

Carter Hart will start for the Flyers.

NHL Responds to Provorov Controversy; Shows Respect for Both Sides

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