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John Tortorella won’t coach in All-Star Game to tend to ailing family dog

John Tortorella was not behind the bench for the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night for what the team deemed a “family emergency” in a statement.

It has been announced Tortorella also will not serve as coach of the Metropolitan Division at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, either. With all the uncertainty surrounding his unexpected absence, Tortorella felt compelled to clear the air regarding the nature of the situation.

Tortorella explained to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus-Dispatch that one of his five family dogs is in poor health. Emma, a 10-year-old pit bull, technically belongs Tortorella’s son, Nick, a U.S. Army Ranger currently deployed abroad.

Tortorella wanted to stress that using the term “emergency” overstated things a bit but that he still felt obligated to be home with his family.

“I appreciate so much the number of messages I have received since the announcement,” Tortorella said. “But this absolutely is not an emergency. I want to clear that up.

“I needed a few days during the All-Star break – not having to go to the All-Star Game – to take care of something very important to my family and my son.”

Tortorella has long been a fierce advocate for animal rights, so his devotion to his dogs — and by proxy, his family during a difficult time — isn’t surprising. The John and Christine Tortorella Foundation, among other worthwhile pursuits, seeks permanent homes for rescued and foster dogs, including pit-bulls.

There exists an NHL rule regarding All-Star Game attendance that punishes players with a one-game suspension for skipping the festivities. Coaches typically are held to the “exact same standard as players,” per an email from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to The Dispatch.

With that in mind, Tortorella opted to miss Thursday’s game instead of the Blue Jackets’ first post-All-Star break game against the division-rival New York Rangers.

Tortorella discussed the situation with his players on Thursday.

“All the guys understood,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said.

Despite the difficulty in making it, Tortorella stands by his decision.

“I needed to see this through,” he said.

[Pro Hockey Talk]