By Jim Diamond
As predicted in this space last week, Barry Trotz was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Nashville Predators Monday morning.
It happens. It is professional sports, where the dollars are high and the demands on coaches are intense and basically nonstop.
Whether or not he was the correct one to shoulder the blame for the team finishing out of the playoffs for two consecutive seasons is up for debate, but as good as Barry Trotz the coach is, Barry Trotz the man is even better.
Heck, this is a guy who would go an pick up new players at the airport if he was available to do so.
They will find another head coach – odds are that a list of candidates to be Trotz’s successor has already been selected by team general manager David Poile – but replacing Trotz in the community will be even tougher.
Trotz demanded a lot of his players on the ice, but he also demanded a lot of them off of it as well, especially in terms of being good citizens in the community in which they play.
And he didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk as well.
From the beginning of the franchise, Trotz and his wife Kim have donated $500 for each of the team’s wins to My Friend’s House, a Franklin-based organization that works with at-risk youth.
That is just one of the many organizations that he helped. He didn’t just act as the face of these charities either; he got in there and got his hands dirty as well.
Trotz made sure that the silent auctions for various charity events were stocked with items. On road trips, he would bring jerseys and sticks for opposing players to sign, telling them about the charities that would benefit from the items.
As the parent of a special needs child with Down’s Syndrome, Trotz was front and center with Best Buddies, a charity that works to match up developmentally disabled people with non-developmentally disabled “buddies.”
Several Predators players past and present, including the likes of Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, and others, all participate in the program and have buddies that they spend time with when they can.
Even though Hamhuis moved on to Vancouver a couple of years ago, he still visits with his buddy when the Canucks play in Nashville, bringing him to the games and taking him into the locker room postgame to meet the team.
For the last few years, Best Buddies has held a 5K run in Franklin. Trotz has encouraged all of the Predators’ front office staffers to participate in it, and all he asks is that they show up, since he picks up the tab for their entry fees.
When Trotz’s former associate head coach Brent Peterson wrote a book detailing his life in hockey and battle with Parkinson’s Disease, Trotz wrote a beautiful foreword for the man he stood next to on the bench for so many years.
I’ll share a personal story. When I moved into my current neighborhood, one of the neighbor kids told me that he was a big fan of the Predators. Like I do in all of these situations, I asked him who his favorite player was.
“I really like Greg Johnson,” he said, referring to the player who was the team captain at the time.
He paused for a second and said, “I really like coach Trotz too.”
That was a first, but what his father said after made it very clear as to why.
The dad and son ran into Trotz and his family at a movie theater one night. The kid apologized for imposing, but asked Trotz for his autograph. Trotz said that he would be happy to sign, but that he didn’t have anything with him to autograph.
Trotz then asked him for his name and address so that he could send him something. They gave the information to the coach and then went on their way. After moving along, the dad told his son not to get his hopes up about receiving anything.
Two days later, an envelope postmarked 501 Broadway arrived in the mail. Enclosed in the envelope was an 8 x 10 of the coach with a nice message to the kid written on it and signed Barry Trotz.
He was just as generous in his time with the media. I have been in hundreds of his press conferences, and he always had time to answer each and every question posed to him. And even when there were dumb questions, and believe me there were a lot of dumb questions, he answered just about all of them without blinking an eye. Trotz’s off the record chats were even better.
Speaking of press conferences, one night a couple of seasons ago, Trotz’s son Nolan was having a tough night and needed some time with his father, so Trotz brought him into the press conference and had Nolan sit right next to him as he answered questions from the media. It was a touching and beautiful moment. I remember that night’s game was against St. Louis, but I have no clue which team won the game that night. It doesn’t matter. The game was one of the season’s 82, but seeing how good of a dad Trotz is will stick with me forever.
The Predators will find a new head coach, but replacing Barry Trotz will be a near impossible task.
I would even go as far as to say it will be Predator hard to do it.