Barry Trotz has a pretty good life. And this weekend he’s going to get a chance to revisit one of his favorite years.
Trotz, the coach of the Washington Capitals, will be among those returning to Maine this weekend to celebrate a reunion of the Portland Pirates’ 1993-94 Calder Cup team. It remains the franchise’s only championship season.
The reunion will include a meet-and-greet with Pirates season-ticket holders Friday at the Cross Insurance Arena and a charity golf tournament Saturday at the Dunegrass Golf Course in Old Orchard Beach.
Trotz, who coached the Pirates for their first four seasons, won’t arrive until Saturday because of commitments in Washington.
“I’m looking forward to hanging out and rehashing old memories,” said Trotz. “I’m sure the boys will give me some jabs.”
Of that you can be sure.
The 1993-94 Pirates team had memorable personalities. It was not only a group of talented players but players who understood their roles and had fun. They weren’t afraid to poke fun at anything or anyone.
“On the ice and off the ice, they were together,” said Trotz, who was hired May 26 by the Capitals – six weeks after his 16-year tenure with the Nashville Predators ended. “We were a tight-knit group; we had fun together. There were a lot of friendships made that year that have still kept together over the years.”
The Pirates won the Calder Cup on May 29, 1994, by beating the Moncton Hawks 4-1 at the Cumberland County Civic Center before a raucous crowd of 7,142 – the season’s 19th sellout. Four days later the city held a parade down Congress Street, drawing an estimated 15,000 fans despite a torrential thunderstorm.
“I still talk to Pirates fans,” said Trotz, “and they say that was the funnest year they’ve had. There were a lot of interesting things that happened that year.”
Trotz and his assistant, Paul Gardner, were the guys who kept things happening.
“That was a great staff,” said Kevin Kaminski, one of the most popular players to wear a Pirates jersey. “They knew their talent, they loved what they did. When someone was out of the lineup they knew how to fill his role.
“They knew how to get the best out of everyone.”
Trotz, who turns 52 next week, said his years in Portland provided the foundation for his NHL coaching career.
“(It) really helped from the standpoint that I was given the reins a little bit to get the players I thought were necessary to develop a winning culture in Portland for the Capitals’ organization,” he said. “I went for the personalities that were going to help us win.
“You look at the guys we had in that four-year span in Portland. We had some tremendous teams, some tremendous personalities. We had a lot of fun. The organization and the players created a culture of winning. They made it a love affair to come to our games.”
It started with a fight-filled victory in the franchise’s inaugural game on Oct. 8, 1993.
“Right off the bat we went into Providence and had that three-hour melee,” said Trotz, chuckling. “Right there that said we were going to be all right.”
Trotz led the Pirates to the Calder Cup finals once more, in 1996, when they lost in seven games to the Rochester Americans.
Then he left the Pirates on Aug. 6, 1997, to join former Washington Capitals general manager David Poile in Nashville. Trotz stayed with the Predators until he was fired in April, ending a stint as the NHL’s longest-tenured coach.
He won 557 games and reached the Stanley Cup playoffs seven times. But after missing the playoffs the past two seasons, Poile announced that Trotz was done.
When the news broke, most NHL observers said it was only a matter of time before Trotz landed another job. And the Capitals, who gave Trotz his first pro coaching job, quickly called.
“It’s almost full circle,” said Trotz. “I believe that things happen for a reason.”
Kaminski wasn’t surprised that Trotz resurfaced so quickly.
“Obviously Nashville is a small-market team but they had some good runs,” said Kaminski, now the coach of the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League. “Trotzie always was a player’s coach. He always had time for you. I know he was a great influence on me, not only as a player but a person.
“I think he’ll do a better job in Washington than he did in Nashville. Players respect the way he carries himself.”
Trotz set an example for his players to become involved in their communities. In Nashville, he was a fixture in most local charities and worked especially closely with Best Buddies of Tennessee, a nonprofit organization that helps create one-on-one relationships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Trotz and his wife Kim have four children. Their youngest, 13-year-old Nolan, has Down syndrome.
Trotz expects to remain involved with those charities in Washington. “I absolutely better be,” he said.
He admits it will be strange to leave Nashville, but he found a home in Arlington, Virginia, where he said he can walk to work each day.
“I’m looking forward to the new challenge,” he said. “It’s exciting as hell, I’ll tell you that.”