Tonight promises to be an emotional affair in Nashville when Barry Trotz — the first-ever Predators head coach, who held his title for 15 years — makes his return to the Music City as the head coach of the Washington Capitals.
Trotz has a special bond with Nashville, and it with him. For more on that connection, be sure to check out the piece CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley wrote for NBC Sportsworld, which highlights Trotz’ involvement with Best Buddies — a program that develops friendships, employment opportunities and leadership skills for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — in the state of Tennessee.
An excerpt, from Music City Miracle:
Like many parents of children with disabilities, Capitals coach Barry Trotz and his wife, Kim, had those same concerns for their son, Nolan, who also has Down syndrome. But until [Best Buddies state director Anneliese] Barron came to Trotz with the idea of developing a Best Buddies program in the state of Tennessee, neither had any idea what they could accomplish.
The two met for lunch in 2009 and when Trotz agreed to speak at a Best Buddies fundraiser, the donations started rolling in.
“No one knows who I am, but everyone knows who Barry Trotz is,” Barron said. “He just dove in headfirst.”
Before long, former Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis was matched with a buddy and defenseman Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne did the same, inviting their new friends into the Predators locker room.
Trotz, who showed up with a handful of autographed jerseys and sticks at the first fundraiser for Best Buddies, became so driven to get the program off the ground that he bought jerseys from every NHL team and had them autographed for auction items.
When Brad Paisley, Aerosmith or any other band rolled into Nashville to play at Bridgestone Arena, Trotz would buy dozens of guitars and get them signed by band members, auctioning them off as fundraisers.
By January 2010, Best Buddies of Tennessee reached its goal of $200,000 and officially opened its doors with Barron as its part-time state director. In the five years since, Best Buddies has grown from less than 100 participants in two colleges to close to 4,000 participants in 80 middle schools, high schools and colleges throughout Tennessee. Barron is now joined by 14 Best Buddies staff members.
“I can see the change in people’s attitudes because of the program,” Barron said. “Even though Matthew [her son, now 8] doesn’t have his own buddy right now, I can sense the attitude and the acceptance is already different for him.
“It makes me want to cry.”
Tributes to Trotz and his legacy in Nashville have been running all day. Two more worth checking out:
— The Washington Post looks at Trotz’s impact on both the city and the development of its hockey community.
— Yahoo looks at how Trotz gave the Predators their name, identity and foundation.