Trotz Gets The Ice Ax
You’ll forgive the people of Nashville today, for we know not what to do.
Two years out of the playoffs was one too many. Two playoff series wins was one too few.
And fifteen seasons and nearly 17 years was all too long.
Barry Trotz will wake up tomorrow and will not be the coach of the Nashville Predators.
The Nashville Predators will open the doors at 501 Broadway without Trotz as the face of the franchise (or the face of the mascot, a similarity no one else seems to ever point out:
He is Nashville hockey. There’s no way to oversell this. Whatever people in Nashville know about hockey, they learned a lot of it from Trotz. And the way hockey is perceived here is necessarily through a lens turned into focus by him.
Nashville is a city still maturing into a sophisticated pro sports town; our approach to sports is still very collegiate and in college — and especially in the South — players come and go, but coaches are forever.
Much of our fandom derives from following college sport, where one player replaces another down the line — an endless succession that reaches back the way ecclesiastics do to St. Peter. College sports are an education in loving the logo on the front and not the name on the back, because those nameplates turn over infinitely like the wake of barges lapping the shore. In a town learning what it’s like to be a world-class city, safe sells.
Thus we get … the Predators with their endless supply of hardworking third-liners — teams that decided early they’d appeal to the fattest part of the bell curve. Even the rare superstars — …, Weber, Rinne — are carefully constructed not to anger, upset, offend or otherwise increase the blood pressure in any substantial way.
Consider it another lesson learned from Music Row. Country music sells, in part, because it appeals to the many Americans who relate to tales of heads-down hard work, modern American pastorals in warm colors. And if God made a farmer, Barry Trotz made a grinder.
But that grind had grown stale and it is time for Nashville and the man who taught it to love hockey to say goodbye. It is time for him to go.
And he knew it. The press conference today was difficult. It was a man saying goodbye to the city he convinced hockey had a place in their hearts.
He was a man sitting up and looking out and looking back and looking around at what he had created.
The clamoring catcallers got their way. Someone took the fall for two too many bad seasons and it was Trotz, to the end a competitor — shots started going in right when it didn’t matter and the Predators finished the year 8-1-3 — and one who still plans to compete:
The man from Dauphin, Manitoba said “y’all,” a subtle and telling nod that not only had he given the city so much, but he had been changed by it, too. He made no bones about wanting to coach somewhere next year and beyond and come back to Nashville on a Saturday and stand behind that bench one more time and hear that crowd again.
That crowd that he taught to cheer.