NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It was the year without hockey, as a labor dispute canceled the entire 2004-05 NHL season.
For Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz, however, it was an opportunity to spend more time with his family and to be more involved in the community. Trotz and his wife Kim have four children, and their youngest son Nolan has Down syndrome.
“For the first time in a winter I was really Dad,” Trotz said. “I was the taxi service. I went to therapies with my son — those types of things. I look at it as a blessing. That’s something I haven’t been able to do.”
Though Trotz, a professing Christian, spent some time traveling and scouting talent during his break from hockey, he also volunteered his time in the Nashville community. He helped out with a number of high school hockey teams. He worked with charities. He played church league baseball (before pulling his hamstring). He participated in chili cook-offs at his church.
“I sort of got unwired for hockey, and I got wired for doing things to help people,” Trotz said.
For his efforts, Trotz was honored with the Nashville Sports Council’s Community Spirit Award.
“All you guys were working and I wasn’t,” Trotz said he told others from the Nashville sports community. “I had to win that. It was only right.”
Now that a new NHL season is at hand, Trotz is ready to go back to work and doing what he loves. He enjoyed the time with his family and kept busy during his break from the game, but he also felt like a man without a purpose.
And although the labor dispute was lengthy and costly, in the long run, Trotz thinks it will be beneficial to the sport.
“It was actually necessary for survival,” he said of the conflict. “You had two sides that saw things totally different. By having a catastrophe, with us not playing, it brought people together. It’s bringing two opposite sides together to believe in the same thing.”
Trotz thinks that’s something the NHL needed.
“The one thing I believe we’re the most guilty of all the major sports is that we do more damage to our game,” Trotz said.
From blaming the referees to griping about a lack of goal scoring, Trotz said everybody associated with the sport of hockey — players, coaches, media and fans — wants to find something to criticize.
“We seem to want to bash our sport when we have a really good sport,” he said. “It boggles my mind why we do that.”
A canceled season didn’t do a lot to help, either, but Trotz thinks the NHL’s reputation may not be as badly damaged as some might suspect. Some individual markets, like Boston or Chicago, may have problems, but Trotz said other markets will respond more favorably because the new collective bargaining agreement has leveled the playing field.
Trotz used the NFL as an example of parity that keeps fans interested in the sport — nobody knows who’s going to win each year, and every team has a window of four or five years when they can be competitive before the salary cap restrictions force them to retool.
He thinks the NHL will now be closer to that kind of system.
“Every marketplace, you could say, has a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Trotz said.
That’s good news for fans in small markets, like Nashville, who would love nothing more than a Stanley Cup. Going into the new season, Trotz think his Predators are close to delivering.
“I’m excited. I’m almost giddy,” he said. “We believe that we’re just not a .500 team. We’re better than a .500 team. We expect to be in the playoffs, just from our culture and our mentality. Now our goal is to go deeper or win the Stanley Cup. There really isn’t anything else.”