One Year Later

We may never know what really happened. The events leading up to John Torchetti’s release by the Moncton Wildcats all started a year ago today.

It seems like an eternity ago now given everything that has happened in the world, but Torchetti’s departure from the championship caliber team was definitely unexpected plot twist that resulted in mass confusion, speculation and controversy across the QMJHL and entire CHL.

Photo Credit Daniel St Louis

November 29, 2019 was like any other Friday night home game at the Avenir Centre. 

The Cats played inspired hockey in front of a solid crowd, but faltered coming home allowing the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to sneak back into the game. A Mark Rumsey goal at the 18:18 mark of the 3rd period secured an 8-5 victory.

Charles Antoine Lavallée wasn’t sharp that night for the Cats and there was no question Torchetti’s team took their foot off the gas which probably didn’t sit well with the former NHL bench boss.

A win is a win, especially posting two in a row. The 2nd ranked team in the country according to the CHL Rankings at the time faced the Val d’Or Foreurs the night before beating them 4 to 1. The events that took place after Friday night’s win is where this story truly gets murky or very interesting. 

The entire city heard conflicting stories coming out of an alleged meeting between Torchetti and Wildcats President Robert Irving that night, but those stories only surfaced a few days after.

All was quiet on Saturday November 30, 2019 or was it? 

The drama was soon to pick up when word got out that Torchetti wasn’t on the bus for the team’s trip to Cape Breton. News travelled even faster when a rumour got out that Torchetti even cleared out his desk and locker.

I received a private message late Saturday night and thought nothing of it from a source asking me if I heard the news?  I had already received a text message from another source earlier in the day saying that Torchetti wasn’t on the bus. 

The messaging at that time was unclear. I trusted my source explicitly, but I didn’t run with it. That all changed on Sunday December 1, 2019 when I received another text message and private message from two sources. 

Where there’s smoke there’s fire! 

At 9:03 am I tweeted the following, 

Within ten minutes my phone started blowing up. I spoke to a General Manager and two coaches from other QMJHL teams that morning. I called another two sources early that morning that were in Cape Breton. I’m afraid those two conversations are off the record.

I was definitely on to something, so I frantically started writing. Wildcats beat reporter Neil Hodge reported on Sunday December 1st that the meeting did take place and that Torchetti’s locker had been cleaned out. 

Screen shot captured from Neil Hodge’s Article on the December 1st

By 2:13pm, Sunday December 1st I ran the following story. 

The Wildcats still hadn’t released a statement, speculation and rumour was spreading like wild fire. I made several phone calls that day which were of the “off the record” variety.

The Cats fell to the Eagles that day 5-4 with Darryl Boyce and Ryan Salvis behind the bench.

The organization finally released a statement at 9:30 pm that night stating that Torchetti had taken a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons.  At that point in my opinion the story was dead in its tracks. I might be relatively new to the journalist side of things, but you don’t go there when personal reasons are involved.

All of my sources at the time were saying something completely different, but I was still extremely hesitant in writing or reporting anything at that time.

Actually, I wrote the following to cement that perspective. 

At that time reports coming from multiple sources said that Torchetti totally fell off the grid, that no one had heard from him and that he couldn’t be reached. I remember trying to reach out to him directly as well, to no avail.  I even remember hearing some reports that he may have even returned to Boston, those were unfounded. 

By Monday night word came out that Torchetti was due to return to Moncton, which led me to tweet the following;

All eyes would be on Wildcats practice the following day. Multiple sources reported that he was in fact back on the ice for practice; I ran with the following tweet and article; 

I received a call from a source a few hours after posting the article saying that I should leave the story alone. When I have multiple sources saying that the Head Coach is on the ice for practice, I run the story. That source was trying to protect me at the time, which is something that I will never ever forget. 

By that point everything had returned to normal so everyone thought, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My source was right.  The Cats were due to leave for a roadie through Quebec the next morning. Would Torchetti be on the bus or not? 

I drove by the Avenir Centre on the morning of December 4, 2019 and snapped a picture of the Cats brand new bus. 

By the time I arrived at work that day I had a source report that Torchetti wasn’t at the rink. There’s more to that text and subsequent phone call than I care to share. Let’s just say it was very significant. Somethings have to stay off the record even a year after the fact. 

I had outdoor duty that morning and I was contemplating tweeting it out that a source had confirmed the information that Torchetti wasn’t at the rink or on the bus. I was extremely torn and decided not to tweet out what I knew.

I sometimes regret that decision, but by that time the bell rang and it was time to go inside the organization had got ahead of it and tweeted it out that he wasn’t going to make the trip. 

For ten days the 2nd ranked team in the country were without a Head Coach. On December 14, 2019 the Moncton Wildcats released John Torchetti.  Over that ten-day period countless phone calls and text messages were made between numerous sources. 

Honestly, I had two articles ready to go at a moment’s notice in case the team was going to announce something. I had no idea when the organization was going to release it, but I was ready. 

When the Moncton Wildcats formally released Torchetti I hit the publish button on the following.

The events that ultimately led to John Torchetti being released by the Moncton Wildcats may never be known.

The Search Is Over!

The hiring of Daniel Lacroix also provided some interesting stories as well. Lacroix is here for the long haul which seems to be a match made in heaven for the rebuilding Moncton Wildcats. 

The morning of December 23, 2019 I received a text message from a source. That text message contained massive news.  

I had written a few speculation articles on who the new Cats bench boss would be, but I had nothing extremely solid, but I was getting very close.  A few sources had floated Lacroix’s name, but it wasn’t the time for guessing or speculation. I had to get it right. 

After receiving the aforementioned text message, I tweeted out the following, 

At that point my phone rang.  It was another source confirming the information I already knew. I made another decision at that time that I often regret. I decided to write the article and have it ready instead of scooping the story.

I received a text message a few minutes later that was very surprising. That message questioned my journalistic integrity.  The message that was sent demanded where I was getting my information from? They wanted me to reveal my sources. I think not.  I replied with one word; “sources.” 

I had my article ready to go. I knew the Wildcats new coach, but I hung onto that info. I waited for a formal announcement from the organization instead of going first. 

When Mikael Lalancette tweeted it out, I hit the publish button. I was actually getting some last-minute Christmas gifts when I published the article from my car sitting in a restaurant parking lot just off of Mountain Rd. 

As Paul Harvey so famously said, “now you know the rest of the story.” 

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