Tortorella’s Tactic for Flyers: No iPads on Bench

Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella behind the bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

When the Flyers took the ice on Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals, there were no changes to the lineup from the previous game. But there was something different on the Flyers bench.

The latest John Tortorella-implemented rule: no iPads on the bench.

As usual, there’s a method behind the madness of Tortorella’s tactics. Technology has become a part of all sports, from analytics to digitally tracking players. The use of iPads and tablets has been amplified in recent years as a form of instant feedback and analysis. A player makes a mistake, misreads a coverage, commits a turnover, watches the iPad and sees what happened to correct it on the next opportunity.

As much as that can be an advantage, Tortorella’s belief is that the Flyers players are too focused on the past. Mistakes are part of the game and learning from them is critical. But recognizing momentum is also a key part of development.


‘It’s a Major Problem with Us’

In Wednesday’s game, Travis Konecny remained red hot with a hat trick to tie his career-high with 24 goals on the season. While Tortorella praised for Konecny after the game, he noted that Konecny is also one of the players who is constantly reaching for the iPad.

“The thing about TK is he screws up a lot but it doesn’t bother him. He just goes out and takes his next shift. That’s a huge attribute for a player,” Tortorella said. “We took the video on the bench off the bench because we want them to just worry about their next shift. 

“I think it’s a major problem with us, understanding momentums of the game. You can’t understand momentums of the game if you’re looking at the iPad all the time. We took them off and aren’t even going to use them, so that they watch the game and see what’s next. TK does that within his game all the time and he’s one of the ones that looks at that damn thing all the time. I think he just has the proper mindset that he’s not afraid to make a mistake. We need to teach him about situations, but we don’t want him to lose that mindset.”


‘I Don’t Give a Flying [Expletive] How I’m Perceived’

Tortorella doubled down on this approach on Friday, keeping technology available, but removing iPads from the bench.

“It’s a fine line. We’re not going to have them,” Tortorella said. “If we or somebody really needs to see something, we’ll have an ability to do that. But that’s going to be a tough sell.

“I think if we want to keep on growing here, is just get ready for your next shift. We’re going to point it out. Sometimes we don’t have to see it, and I think it helps us because you have the iPad, you’re pointing out everything during a game. It’s almost like you think you have to because you just saw it. We over-coach. We get in the way sometimes and we’re clouding their head in what just happened instead of [focusing on the next shift.] Everybody thinks technology is great, sometimes it is. There’s some important stuff to it. Sometimes it isn’t and I think this is a time that it isn’t.”

Obviously, this feels like more old-school tactics from Tortorella, another case of Torts being Torts. It’s how he’s been perceived throughout his career.

What does the Flyers coach think about perception?

“I don’t give a flying [expletive] how I’m perceived. I really don’t because it’s my job to coach the team,” Tortorella said. “If I’m in the business to try to make everybody happy and be perceived – that’s a tough way to live. I really don’t pay too much attention to it and I’m saying that respectfully. You have a right to make a judgment. Everybody does. But how much I pay attention to it is very little, because I’m kind of locked into what I think is best for the team and I have to make those calls.”


‘I Don’t Want Them Overthinking’

Even as the Flyers have improved the results, a main part of Tortorella’s method here is staying engaged. It can be easy to get locked into the iPad dwelling on a play that happened 30 seconds earlier. Or you can look past the mistake and be ready for your next shift, focused on the opportunity in front of you.

Tortorella again used Konecny as an example.

“He’s engaged and I think some of our young guys can learn off of that. Some of our old guys can learn off of that, how many things can really push your way if you stay engaged. He’s engaged when things are going wrong too. He still stays with it. He doesn’t mope. He keeps it at the same level as far as energy.”

Tortorella said that if players want to see a play, coaches will bring them into the video room between periods or players can go there themselves at that time, but the use of mobile technology is getting in the way of staying engaged within the game.

“We’re not passing around the iPad in the locker room. I’m not trying to be an idiot here. We have a major problem understanding flows of games, momentum swings. That is the biggest reason for it,” Tortorella said. “I think it’s so important to learn that as a young team. If we are fortunate enough to play in big games, they’re magnified even more. So I don’t want them overthinking. I don’t want them thinking about that when you’re up in another minute and a half. Maybe I might throw you out the next shift. I’m not trying to make a big deal out of this myself, I just think this is the proper thing to do with our team.”