Tortorella finding unique ways to keep CBJ competitive

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Every Friday morning around 9 a.m., Columbus Blue Jackets players are waiting for the email. What’s inside that email could determine how much conditioning work they’ll have to do when hockey resumes. It’s serious stuff.

Each Friday, Jackets players receive a quiz put together by either head coach John Tortorella or one of his assistants. That quiz contains questions about Blue Jackets and NHL history, facts about Columbus and other curious questions for the players to answer.

“It’s a competitive thing that has turned out to be… it’s kind of taken on a life of its own, and that’s caused a little stir in communication that I can’t even talk about here as far as what’s being said.” Tortorella said Tuesday.

The first five players to respond with the correct answers earn points. Some players have responded so quickly, Tortorella realized he may have to get creative. “They’re cheating, that’s what they’re doing! So I have to change the rules every week.” He says. Players with the most points will have less conditioning to do when they return to finish the season, and that’s not all. “They can assign that conditioning to another teammate, so there’s a little incentive here as far as going about our business.” Tortorella says.

Among the questions Tortorella asked players, “Who is the least likely player to respond to this email?”

Jackets rookie Alexander Texier says he wakes up early every Friday to make sure he’s ready for the quiz when it comes in. “If you go on Google, it’s going to be probably 30 minutes, so you have to just check and just learn. And if you don’t know you can’t do anything about that.” He says. “It’s funny. I just enjoy it and try to do my best every Friday.”

The Jackets last met as a team March 12th, the day they were scheduled to play Pittsburgh at home. Since that day the players and coaches have been away from the arena, and each other, per NHL rules. Only players on the injured list who require medical care and rehab work can use the team facilities. Players have been assigned home workouts by the team’s strength and conditioning staff.

Tortorella says he’s not a fan of Zoom meetings, FaceTime and other virtual methods of communication, so he’s generally left his players alone during the league shutdown. The coach says he’s been working on several different models on how he’ll get the Jackets back in game shape once the NHL decides to return to work, in whatever form that could be. The Jackets could also potentially get Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alexandre Texier back from injury when/if the season resumes.

“We’re getting more and more guys healthy, out so I’ve done lineups with a healthy lineup, I’ve done lineups with a mixture of health and what our lineup was prior to the break, so there’s a lot of things going on in my mind.” Tortorella says.  “But then you got to stop thinking and just wait and find out what we’re gonna be doing here.”

The NHL has proposed numerous return-to-play plans, including finishing the regular season at regional sites across the U.S. and Canada. Columbus has been among the rumored cities in the discussion, mainly due to the facilities at Nationwide Arena and the close hotel space. Tortorella says he thinks Columbus would make a perfect host city for a return.

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