Tortorella reached out to Reaves after 'animal' comment

Jasen Vinlove / USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella raised eyebrows last week when he called Ryan Reaves, a St. Louis Blues winger of African-American descent, an "animal" in an emotional postgame interview that included praise for captain Nick Foligno, who fought Reaves in the loss.

Some considered this a thinly veiled slur directed at a black player, and others as explicit. And then there's some, including Reaves, who considered it typical hockey jargon.

"I saw the comments," Reaves said this week, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. "It's exactly what's wrong now. People blow nothing into something real quick. It didn't even cross my mind that it was something even remotely disrespectful to me."

Tortorella told Portzline he was immediately informed about the subject: "It just knocked me down." He quickly tracked down Reaves to explain what he meant by the comment.

"He said, 'You didn't have to call me,'" Tortorella explained. "I told him what was meant, and he says, 'I know that.' We had a great conversation. We play them (on Saturday). I told him I hope we kick the hell out of the Blues, but I hope he has a great rest of the year."

Then he explained to Portzline:

"That comment is respect for that player, what he has to do. It's one of the hardest jobs in our league every night, and so I have total respect for him. That's the part of the comment that people have run with, but it was really meant as a compliment to that young man in St. Louis."

Tortorella has used "animal" to describe other players and their work ethic. This includes goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and former Blue Jackets enforcer Jared Boll, as noted by Portzline.

Tortorella reached out to Reaves after 'animal' comment
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