“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” USA Hockey Coach John Tortorella told ESPN’s Linda Cohn ahead of the World Cup of Hockey.
Tortorella, who coaches the Columbus Blue Jackets during the NHL season, has a son, Nick, who is a member of the Army Rangers, and he has reportedly spoken often with his players in Toronto about representing America as national team members.
“I know these are hockey games … but I do look at it like it’s for my country,” Tortorella said (via the Columbus Dispatch). “What Nick is doing by far dwarfs what we do. We’re entertainers; we’re playing a sport.”
“But with my son over there — this might sound selfish — I want to team up with him and help my country,” Tortorella continued. “I get pretty caught up in representing my country. There’s nothing like it.”
Obama said Kaepernick’s stand, or lack thereof, is a “tough thing” for military service members to accept. That appears to have carried over to at least one service member’s family, if Tortorella’s comments are any indication.
And Tortorella has support among the U.S. delegation to the World Cup. From USA Today:
Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke who is a senior advisor for Team USA said he respects athletes’ right to “express opinions, vote, attend political rallies and make political contributions. “But I don’t believe the field of competition is a place to make political statements,” Burke said.
“I think as athletes we have a great platform and to use it to influence social change is within our right,” said David Backes, who will play forward for the Americans. “Whether you should do that during the anthem, which stands for our country and salutes those who have given their lives for our country, allowing athletes to play, is a matter of debate. I have my opinions on that.”
The likelihood that Tortorella will have to act on his words, however, is slim. Unlike during NHL games, national anthems aren’t typically played before the start of international games; they are played after. But even that won’t be the case in Toronto, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who spoke on the subject in March.
“We’re not going to play anthems after every game,” Daly said. “We’re only going to play anthems when something is won from a tournament perspective. In that context, we are working on potential anthems for the two select teams.”
If that holds true, that means the only time U.S. national anthem could be played is when there are no more games to be played — making Tortorella’s statement a bit of a moot point.