Class of 1975
A two-sport standout who was the backbone of some of the greatest hockey teams in CCHS history, John Tortorella has gone on to become a successful coach in the National Hockey League.
Tortorella was a center and left wing for coach Dan Bova's teams, forming a prolific line with fellow Hall of Fame inductee Tim Moreau and Brett Smith. The Patriots were among the area's top teams, making four consecutive state tournament appearances, including a trip to the Boston Garden in 1975. Tortorella was a captain in his senior year and was a two-time league all-star.
In baseball, Tortorella was a scrappy infielder for coach Brent Clark, earning four varsity letters and a spot on the DCL all-Star team following his senior season. The Patriots made the state tournament all four years, making it to the quarter finals in the 1975 before losing to eventual state champion Durfee.
Tortorella also played two years of football before a bad back curtailed his career although "I think I hit harder in hockey than I did in football," he states.
After attending Salem State College for one year, where he played a season of hockey, Tortorella transferred to the University of Maine at Orono. John went on to become a two-time ECAC all-star on the ice for the Black Bears, playing alongside younger brother Jim (CCHS '78), the current hockey coach at Colby College. John also played four years of baseball at Maine, playing infield for legendary coach John Winkin.
Following graduation and some time spent playing hockey overseas in Sweden, John returned to the states and played professionally with the Hampton Roads, Erie Blades and Virginia Lancers of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. His best season as a pro was his last, as he led the Lancers in scoring during the 1985-86 season. After retirement, Tortorella took over as the Lancers head coach and general manager for two seasons, posting an 87-31 record and winning an ACHL championship while earning Coach of the Year honors in 1988.
Tortorella's success did not go unnoticed, and he joined NHL veteran Rick Dudley as an assistant coach of the New Haven Nighthawks in the American Hockey League, winning a Northern Division title in 1989.
When Dudley was named head coach of the Buffalo Sabres the following spring, he brought Tortorella with him, beginning a six-year apprenticeship in the NHL, coaching such luminaries as Pat LaFontaine and Grant Fuhr and overseeing some of the league's top penalty killing units.
After six seasons as the Sabres top assistant, Tortorella took over the club's NHL farm team in Rochester, New York, also serving as the teams's Directory of Hockey Operations. The Americans won the prestigious Calder Cup in Tortorella's rooking season, his third league championship in four years as a professional head coach.
Following a return trip to the playoffs last spring, Tortorella was named an assistant each to former Bruin defenseman Jim Schoenfeld with the Phoenix Coyotes, who are beginning their second season in the NHL this fall.
"Much of what I now teach as a coach I learned in high school from men like Brent Clark and Dan Bova," says Tortorella, who is married with two children. "Brent taught me what it is to compete, and to never accept losing, while Dan was the perfect coach for me in hockey. I was fortunate to play on teams which made it to the playoffs and feel like my time at CCHS got me started on the road to where I am now.