VANCOUVER — Larry Brooks says he wishes John Tortorella nothing but the best. Seriously.
Brooks, the veteran New York Post hockey columnist whose exchanges of verbal jousting with Tortorella have become legendary, says he and Tortorella for the most part got along just fine.
"We have a much, much better personal relationship than anyone would infer from watching the YouTube clips and TSN Top 10 Moments and stuff like that," Brooks said over the phone Sunday night. "I have known him for a long time and we have had a lot of conversations and we have spent a lot of time trying to come to an understanding.
"I think 99 per cent of the time it was fine. The one per cent of the time, well, we are both volatile personalities and it just exploded and it dwarfed everything else. I hope he does well there and and I hope he has peace there because there's no need to fight every day."
Tortorella, who was fired last month after the New York Rangers lost in the second round of the playoffs, is expected to be introduced as the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks early this week.
Brooks acknowledged that Tortorella will be challenged working in a hockey-mad market like Vancouver.
"The New York market for hockey doesn't compare to a Canadian market and certainly not Vancouver," Brooks said.
So how will Tortorella handle dealing with the rabid hockey media north of the border?
"I really do think it's up to him," Brooks said. "He has a choice to make and I think he had a choice to make in New York. He can be incredibly charming, he can be engaging when he wants to be. He's informative when he wants to be and there are times for whatever reason he decides to go the opposite way.
"It will be interesting to see whether people there attempt to provoke him or whether it's an entire new start for him. For him, I hope it's a new start. I do."
Brooks says things really went south for Tortorella during last year's playoffs when the Rangers made it through to the third round. He was frequently short and downright rude to reporters.
"He was abrupt and there was so much national coverage of it that the personna he adopted for last year's playoffs has dogged him since. I think up until then it was some good, some bad. But last year's playoffs was a real tough one."
Brooks has known Tortorella since the 1999-2000 season when he was an assistant coach with the Rangers and said in recent years the two of them came to an understanding that they would do their best to get along.
"We have always had a good relationship and our relationship became almost a caricature in a lot of ways," Brooks said. "A couple of years ago he and I reached an understanding that we were both going to do whatever we could not to provoke each other in public and if we had issues we were going to deal with them behind closed doors because these public episodes were kind of embarrassing to both of us after a while."
Brooks was surprised when Tortorella's name surfaced as a serious candidate for the Canucks' job because he doesn't see him as a Mike Gillis kind of guy.
Brooks now has Vancouver's former coach, Alain Vigneault, to deal with.
"It should provide a pretty intersesting narrative this year to see how each team responds under the new guy and under obviously dramatically different dynamics," he said.
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