By Jim Diamond
Barry Trotz was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as the head coach of the Washington Capitals, he now lives in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia. But during a Tuesday afternoon conference call with the media in advance of Friday night’s game at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators, Trotz referred to Nashville as home on three different occasions.
It’s not a big surprise though. During the press conference held the day it was announced he would not return behind the Nashville bench, Trotz said that Nashville would always be home for him, but to hear him say it eight months removed from that emotional day hit, well, home.
“I’m excited, I’m excited to get back home and see some friends and get to see my family a little bit,” Trotz said when describing his feelings about Friday’s game. “I’m excited. It’s good to go back home.”
Hired to be Nashville’s first head coach soon after it was awarded a franchise, Trotz didn’t expect to last through the conclusion of the 2013-14 season in that same position.
“I just wanted to coach for a year and found a home in Nashville, Tennessee,” he said.
Trotz’s three adult children still live in the city, so he is looking forward to seeing them and spending what time he can with them while he is in town. In addition to his biological offspring, Trotz thinks pretty highly of some of the players on what will be the opposing team Friday night.
“I am so happy for Pekks,” Trotz said when asked about the performance of Pekka Rinne entering Tuesday’s action. “There are a lot of people you come across in this business that you love as your own children… Pekka is one of them.”
Rinne is one of Trotz’s now former players who have stayed active in Best Buddies, a charity that Trotz holds near and dear to his heart. Best Buddies pairs ‘buddies’ with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Moves can be hard on anyone, but the Trotzs’ move to the nation’s capital was a little tougher than an average family’s relocation because of the impact that it had on their youngest child, 13-year-old Nolan. Nolan has Down Syndrome, and living in suburban Nashville was all he knew prior to his father being hired to lead the Capitals.
“Originally it was pretty difficult,” Trotz said. “The school systems were a lot different here than they were in Brentwood. He had a great situation in Brentwood in terms of classroom, teachers, friends, all of those things. He had a pretty good setup. He was involved in a lot of things. He also had his brother and sisters that would come by the house almost daily or on the weekends grab him and have him over for a sleepover, those types of things. When we got here, it became pretty lonely for him real quickly because he didn’t have a lot of friends here and being special needs, it was a little bit difficult.”
It was a tough transition for Nolan, which meant it was incredibly painful for his parents, Trotz and his wife Kim.
“We found it was probably heart wrenching for mom and dad at first because we’d find him in his room looking through his yearbook and circling his friends,” Trotz said. “You could tell there was a sadness in his heart.”
Trotz reports that Nolan has made some strides in healing that sadness, and the family business has played a large part in that transformation.
“He’s starting to come out of it,” Trotz said. “He’s learning to play hockey, which he never liked to play hockey. We got him some hockey equipment and told him he’s Iron Man – he loves the superheroes, so we put a pair of skates on him and got him skating. He’s now starting to be a part of a special needs hockey program that they have here. He’s starting to make headway in that area.”
Trotz’s return to Nashville will be brief, as the Capitals have a road game in Dallas on Saturday. While Trotz will sleep in a hotel room Thursday night, step onto the visiting team’s bench Friday night, and lead a team other than the Predators for the first time inside Bridgestone Arena, he will be right at home.