Skipjacks' Trotz wise for his years Head coach, 30, has been around playing, coaching loop

September 25, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Barry Trotz had to laugh to himself after reading a story in The Hockey News labeling Marc Crawford of the St. John's Maple Leafs and Newell Brown of the Adirondack Red Wings as the youngest coaches in the American Hockey League.

"I'm younger than both these guys," said Trotz, 30, the head coach of the Baltimore Skipjacks. "But I've always been the youngest player, scout or coach, wherever I've been, so I guess I get taken for granted."

Trotz had just finished putting the Skipjacks through a morning practice at Odenton's Piney Orchard ice rink, which the Washington Capitals' farm team shares with its parent club.

Trotz, who replaced Rob Laird in late February, easily could pass for one of the players.

"When you're a young coach or manager, people tend to be apprehensive," he said. "They equate age with maturity. But times have changed. You can't treat players today the way Vince Lombardi did. You need to communicate and share their feelings, and that's really my strong suit."

Trotz already has an impressive resume.

At 21, with his hockey playing career curtailed by a back injury he suffered in a baseball collision, he became head coach at the University of Manitoba.

"As a defenseman, I was very competitive, but slow and undersized," he said. "But I always had leadership abilities, and I was captain of every team I played on.

"It seems I'm always coaching guys I played with at one time. When I was 14, I was already playing in a pro league of guys mostly in their 20s. Off the ice, we didn't have much in common. They were always talking about their ladies and I didn't even look at a girl back then."

Trotz began chasing the puck growing up in Dauphin, Manitoba, a prairie town of 8,000 that Trotz proudly calls "one of the last outposts of civilization until you reach Vancouver."

He left for Notre Dame Academy in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, a dTC prep school renowned for producing future pro hockey players.

At 17, Trotz was a starting defenseman for the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League then coached by Bryan Murray, who would become head coach of the Capitals. In his three seasons with the Pats, Trotz made an impression on Murray, who invited him for a tryout with the Capitals in 1982.

"Bryan told me my heart was bigger than my talent," Trotz said. recalls. "But five years later, the Capitals offered me a job as a part-time scout."

After just one year, the Caps promoted Trotz to director of scouting for Western Canada, an area stretching from Manitoba to British Columbia.

Trotz's prime mission today is preparing players for the Capitals. But he also knows his job is producing a winning team in Baltimore.

"It's one of those Catch-22 things," he said. "A coach's success is always based on winning games, otherwise Laird, a fine coach, would still be here."

Trotz finished 5-12-3 as the Skipjacks' interim head coach last season, and remembers how, after a quick start, the team faded from contention.

"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot," he said. "We started the season with a lot of older players, and then injuries left us short-handed. But by the end of the season, our young kids were getting it together. The preview I got last year helped mold my philosophy."

Trotz promises a "quicker, more tenacious and creative" team this season.

"In the time I coached the Skipjacks last year, I think I established a better work ethic and attitude," he said. "I'm very strict on punctuality and doing everything to a 'T.' But I also believe the game has to be fun. You've got to enjoy playing hockey, to be really good."

Now if Trotz can only convince the AHL record-keepers he is the youngest boss in the league.

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