This morning in a very unpublicized news conference, Rick Tocchet has apologized for his actions this season. Don't Trade Vinny has acquired the only known transcript of the event.
Good morning, and thank you for joining me. Many of you in this room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me or you've worked with me or you've supported me.
Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me. I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my terrible coaching and stupid behavior I engaged in.
I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my team, and to the Lightning fans. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say.
The team and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As Lecavalier pointed out to me, my real apology to them will not come in the form of words; it will come from my coaching over the rest of the year. We have a lot to discuss; however, what we say to each other will remain in the locker room.
I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down the fans. For many of you, especially Janet Gretzky, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable financial worry to Oren Koules and Len Barrie.
To everyone involved in the team, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors and most importantly, the young fans we reach, our work is more important than ever. A few years ago, Wayne Gretzky and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through hockey and our team winning a Stanley Cup. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow. From the guys playing in the AHL to the bantam hockey players here in Tampa, millions of kids have quit playing hockey, and I am dedicated to making sure that continues.
But still, I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position.
For all that I have done, I am so sorry.
I have a lot to atone for, but there is one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Vinny somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Vinny never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our locker room, ever. Vinny has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. He deserves praise, not blame.
The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful to line combinations. I took advice from Janet. I gambled with the goaltending situation. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.
I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that even an average coach should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them.
I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to John Tortorella apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my team, my fans, Janet, Janet's family, my friends, my community and gambling coaches all around the world who admired me.
I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It's now up to me to make amends and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made. It's up to me to start coaching with integrity.
I once heard, and I believe it's true, it's not what you achieve in life that matters; it's what you overcome. Achievements on the ice rink are only part of setting an example. Character and common sense are what really count.
One parent used to point to me as a role model for his kids. I owe him a special apology. I want to say to him that next time I will try not to get caught.
It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February, I was in Bettman's office receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go. But I've taken my first steps in the right direction.
As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants to ask me for the details and the times I was an idiot. I understand people want to know whether the Lightning and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between the team and me. These are issues between a coach and a GM.
Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used coaching-enhancing drugs. Obviously, this is completely and utterly false. Some have written things about my captain. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my captain from the public spotlight. Vinny did not do these things; I did.
I have always tried to maintain a private space for my team. They have been kept separate from team sponsors, my gambling endorsements. When I took this job, we only released photographs so that the paparazzi could not chase Barry Melrose. However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow Zenon Konopka to the boxing ring and report the boxing ring's location. They staked out Marty and they pursued Steven Stamkos. Whatever my wrongdoings, and no matter how much over the top advertising we did, for the sake of my team, please leave Stamkos alone.
I recognize I have brought this on myself, and I know above all I am the one who needs to change. I owe it to my team to become a better coach. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better leader. That's where my focus will be.
I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught. It's also why I shave my head.
As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I've learned that's how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for Gary's office and more therapy. I would like to thank my friends at the St. Pete Times and the players in the Olympics this year for understanding why I'm making these remarks today.
In therapy, I've learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me -- money, and a chance to destroy another franchise.
That also means relying on others for help. I've learned to seek support from my peers in therapy, and I hope someday to return that support to others who are seeking help. I do plan on being a good coach one day, I just don't know when that day will be.
I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do turn into a good coach, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game. In recent weeks, I have received many thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people expressing wishes for me to leave Tampa on the next bus available, and a handful that even want me to stick around. To everyone who has reached out to me and my team, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to me.
I want to thank the NHL, Commissioner Bettman and the players for their patience and understanding while I work on my coaching. I look forward to seeing my fellow coaches in the rink.
Finally, there are many people in this room, and there are many people at home who for some reason believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.