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It’s Official: Rangers’ Lundqvist Behind Tortorella’s Ouster

Good lord they look uncomfortable together.

Good lord they look uncomfortable together. At least Lundqvist is trying.

Okay, so calling it officially official may be a bit of an overstatement—but a very slight one.

The New York Rangers had ample cause to terminate coach John Tortorella after another playoff disappointment. Impatient fans were calling for his head—not with torches and pitchforks, but by voicing their opinions via online polls posted by a number of local publications.

Support for the combative Tortorella was in short supply, meaning the team had no need to justify their actions with a lengthy explanation. Particularly since coaches are disposable in the NHL these days, tossed out every 2-3 years—at most—discarded like used Kleenex.

Torts himself felt no urge to delve into the issue either. As the Rangers coach, for the most part, he absolutely loathed interacting with the media. Why would he want to engage them now that he’s not contractually obligated?

The official silence on the issue has been deafening, leading to a firestorm of speculation about what exactly pushed Tortorella into (temporary) unemployment. The most popular theory being that a frosty relationship with Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Hendrik Lundqvist cost him his job.

In the immediate aftermath of the Rangers 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals, Lundqvist, who has just one year left on his contract, began speaking publicly about his career with the team in the past tense. Which you know got the attention of anyone and everyone involved in personnel decisions.

Quoted in the New York Daily News said Lundqvist, “I’ve had such a great time here in New York. From day one they treated me really well and have given me an opportunity to play a lot of hockey. It’s been a lot of fun.” He went on about talking to his agent and taking some time to figure out the future.

For real?

For real?

Two days later Tortorella was fired. Apparently he was a bit surprised by the news. Which is a bit surprising in itself.

It makes you wonder how out of touch Torts was with his team that he had no clue “multiple players” banded together in their demand to see him canned. Taking a page out of the New York Jets handbook, the players involved preferred to complain to the media anonymously.

Although there was one person who was more than happy to voice his opinions and have his name attached to it—retired Rangers agitator Sean Avery. Anonymous isn’t in his vocabulary because no one on earth loves hearing the sound of his own voice more than the marginally talented Avery.

In March he tweeted “Fire this CLOWN, his players hate him and won’t play for his BS…” So it should come as no surprise that when asked about Tortorella’s dismissal, Avery replied, “I had a huge smile on my face, no question about it … It’s not that I’m happy for myself. I’m happy for the Rangers and Ranger fans.”

Everyone wanted to hear from Hendrik Lundqvist, and they did, through the venom spitting mouth of Sean Avery. For anyone unaware, the two are very good friends. They co-own Tiny’s, a restaurant and bar in Tribeca together and the “closest of friends” have a relationship that “you can’t really explain … it’s not a level that a lot of people can identify with.”

Looks more like a romance than a bromance.

Looks more like a romance than a bromance.

It seems the impeccably dressed Lundqvist and Avery have the kind of friendship which allows them to finish each other’s sentences. Or maybe even speak for the other entirely? It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.

It’s clear that Lundqvist’s dislike, or even disdain, for John Tortorella is what ultimately got him fired. But he’s looking to sign one helluva a huge contract in 2014, so it behooves him to keep quiet and take the high road.

Avery, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing on the line and wouldn’t even recognize the high road if he saw it—since he’s never once taken it during his entire time in the public eye. So why would he keep quiet?

So the issue here isn’t that Avery said something nasty and needlessly weighed in on something that in no way effects his life. Would you expect anything less?

The question we should be asking here is would Avery have said anything publicly without the blessing, if not the insistence, of Lundqvist—his close friend and only real tie to the Rangers.

My guess is no.

Meaning that there is at least one player that is no longer anonymous, and it’s the most important one. Lundqvist has been personally playing it cool in the media, which is probably much easier because he has Avery to use as his mouthpiece to voice his displeasure with his head coach.

He’s never going to come out with it himself—that’s just not his style. But if you want to know the real story behind Lundqvist and Tortorella, all you have to do is look to the words of Sean Avery.

Or you could watch while they whisper sweet nothings to each other.

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