Glen Sather's Letter to Gary Bettman
In addition to your suspension of Coach Tortorella for his actions during last night's game, we respectfully request that you consider appropriate discipline in light of Washington's gross negligence in ensuring the safety of the personnel on the Rangers' bench, including Coach Tortorella, in the face of the Rangers' repeated requests for intervention against egregious fan misconduct during Game 5. As importantly, we would like the League's intervention to ensure that there are adequate security measures in place to protect our personnel in the event there is a Game 7 in Washington.
Neither the NHL nor either team has had the opportunity to conduct a full investigation or to interview all witnesses but the television coverage and the statements made by Rangers bench personnel make clear that Washington utterly failed in its security obligations to the Rangers, not to mention its own fans. The tension was evident from before the opening face-off. Throughout the game, several people seated immediately behind the visitors' bench took advantage of the looseness of the glass panels and the unusually wide gaps between the panels to assault the Rangers with some of the most obscene language imaginable.
Because of the way the glass is installed, the patron sitting behind Coach Tortorella (the gray-haired, bearded man in the white T-Shirt) could literally scream into the coach's ear. According to Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay, one patron was screaming at the team, in graphic language, about whether Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have a sexual relationship. This was within earshot of several children seated nearby. Several other fans also made repeated homophobic remarks. Moreover, Mr. Ramsay reported that he and other bench personnel were spit on by one or more "fans" as they yelled through the gaps in the glass.
Your statement tonight referred to alerting security. In the first period, Mr. Ramsay warned the security guard stationed on the nearest stairwell (a large African-American man) that the situation was unacceptable and was likely to get ugly. No action was taken. The misconduct continued. In the second period, Mr. Ramsay warned a female security supervisor that some fans were out of control and that he was concerned that something unfortunate was going to happen. Although this supervisor was equipped with a radio, she apparently took no action, because the same fans were in their seats when the team returned to the bench for the third period. According to press accounts, no fans were ever ejected or permanently removed from their seats.
Washington's failure to respond to what its personnel knew -- and were specifically warned -- was a potentially dangerous situation contributed significantly to this unfortunate incident. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you consider imposing appropriate discipline on Washington for its knowing failure to protect the Rangers and prevent the situation from deteriorating into an incident that reflects badly on all of us. In addition, we must immediately discuss how Washington is going to handle security for any Game 7. Neither the Rangers nor the well-behaved Capitals fans should be forced to endure the extraordinary level of fan misconduct that Washington failed to prevent in Game 5.
Thank you for your consideration.