Caps coach Barry Trotz recently celebrated his 52nd birthday, doing so just a couple months before he embarks upon his 16th season as a head coach in the National Hockey League. Only a dozen men in the history of the league have coached in more regular season games (1,196) than Trotz, who was actually on the job for nearly 17 years in Music City. He was hired a year before the team actually began its on-ice NHL existence and he missed a full season of coaching because of the 2004-05 lockout.
Trotz is younger now than Bruce Boudreau was when he took over the coaching reins here in the District on Nov. 22, 2007. As was the case with Boudreau, Trotz spent about a decade and a half plying his trade at lower levels before ascending to the NHL.
Unlike most of the coaches in the league today, Trotz began coaching early in his 20s after a baseball injury dashed any hope of a career playing pro hockey.
“There are not that many guys in the league that didn’t play in the league or play at least in the minors,” notes Trotz of his peers. “There’s Ken Hitchcock and maybe Paul Maurice. But the funny thing is I have always been around good coaches.
“When I was at Notre Dame, I learned so much from Terry O’Malley and Barry MacKenzie. Both of them played for the Canadian Olympic team back in the Father David Bauer era. I had Greg Schmaltz, who was the coach at Notre Dame for a long time and I learned a lot from him. I went on to junior and my first coach in junior was Bryan Murray and I saw what worked. Then I had Jack Sangster and then Bill LaForge, who was a notorious tough guy and he was off the wall. Then I went to University of Manitoba and I had Wayne Fleming, and I learned from Wayne Fleming.
“But when I really started to get an education in coaching and when I really knew I was going to be a coach for a long time was my year at University of Manitoba. The level of coaches were George Kingston, Peter Anholt and Clare Drake. Coaching against those minds back then, I realized how much I needed to learn. Coaching against those guys was incredible. They were outstanding individuals. I was a kid coaching against what I considered to be hockey legends. And they didn’t ignore me; they gave me all the advice I wanted. That was pretty exceptional.
“I started going to the Roger Neilson school and I started making good contacts with people and we all started coming up together. Those were guys like Kevin McCarthy, Bob Hartley, Marc Crawford and Joel Quenneville. I actually coached Joel Quenneville; he got sent down from the Caps when I was in Baltimore. A lot of those guys are NHL coaches now, but I grew up with those guys.”
Less than four months from now, the Caps and the Chicago Blackhawks will meet in the NHL’s 2015 Winter Classic. Trotz and Quenneville’s teams will be under the spotlight together nearly two and a half decades after the younger of the two briefly coached the other. That was Trotz’s very first pro coaching gig and it was the penultimate season of Quenneville’s playing career.
Those two guys whose hockey paths crossed briefly in Baltimore all those years ago are now among the top 13 on the league’s all-time wins ledger.