Barry Trotz is a name only familiar to hard-core hockey fans or Nashville residents. Yet he has been one of the mainstays in the world of professional sports — until Monday.
The Nashville Predators relieved Trotz of his job after he had served as the team’s head coach since its inception in August 1997, which was a full year before the expansion team even played its first game. It wasn’t a full-blown firing — he was offered another job within the organ-I-zation — but he declined, preferring his chances at landing another coaching gig. Trotz was not only the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, but he was the second-longest tenured head coach or manager in all four major North American team sports behind San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Trotz’s ability to stick around was impressive for multiple reasons. As one former boss once told me, “NHL coaching changes are as newsworthy as me changing my pants,” the point being that both occur with great frequency. Furthermore, it’s pretty obvious why Popovich is the longest-tenured coach in sports — the Spurs are perennial contenders and he has four NBA titles to his name.
Trotz has long been respected for his ability to coax a lot out of a little, even if he has no spectacular marks on his resume. He never won the Jack Adams Trophy as league coach of the year, and the Predators only won a two playoff series in his 15-year tenure, getting out of the first round in 2011 and 2012. Still, those series wins seemed to indicate the franchise was on the upswing before it failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons, ultimately leading to the first coaching change in team history.
But since Nashville Predators hockey is only going to bring in so many readers — and I hope to God you are still reading this — Trotz’s tenure is best put into perspective with the traditional “stuff that was going on when Barry Trotz was hired” time capsule.
– The Red Wings were the defending NHL champions, while Carolina joined Nashville as the league’s new southern market after moving from Hartford.
– Six current NHL coaches were still playing in the league when Trotz was hired.
– The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are on their ninth coach since Trotz was hired.
– I was starting my sophomore year in high school.
– The first Lilith Fair tour was in progress. It is believed that Trotz did not attend any of the concerts.
– Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” was the No. 1 pop song. He has since changed his name from and back to Puff Daddy. And since we’re talking about Nashville, George Strait’s “Carrying Your Love With Me” was ruling the local airwaves.
– “South Park” debuted on Comedy Central. Sadly, it was the last month of “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper.”
– Google was still available as a domain name. For another month, anyway.
– In a seminal video game moment, “GoldenEye” was released on Nintendo 64. Within weeks, the “No Oddjob” rule was established.
– Steve Jobs returned to Apple as the company lingered in dire financial straits.
– Other than friends, family and Bill Clinton’s desk, no one had heard of the name Monica Lewinsky yet.