Getty Images

U.S. women hope bond forged by pay fight leads to Olympic gold

1 Comment

By TERESA M. WALKER (AP Sports Writer)

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — Hilary Knight was listening to the radio when she heard the U.S. women’s hockey team come up.

It wasn’t about a big win on the ice. It was about a fight off the ice that ended with a better labor deal.

”It’s a big deal,” the two-time Olympic silver medalist said. ”Women’s hockey now is on the map. And not only did we fight for things in our sport for the next generation, but hopefully we inspired other people outside.”

Threatening to boycott the world championships last March landed the United States women’s national hockey team a pay raise and some of the perks USA Hockey gives the men. Standing together to earn a deal reached only three days before playing rival Canada to kick off the world championships brought them closer together, a bond they used to win their fourth straight world title.

The Americans believe their chemistry couldn’t be stronger and could help them achieve their ultimate goal: ending a 20-year drought by winning Olympic gold at the 2018 Winter Games.

Knight says a delicate balance is required.

”After a win like that on both fronts, you sort of feel untouchable,” Knight said. ”You’ve changed the world. You’re hoping that you’ve changed the other industries for the better. But also, too, realizing you have to have humility and the opponent’s right around the corner, building, working, doing the same things you’re doing, and every time you show up at the rink it’s a 50-50 battle and you’ve got to be at the top of that battle.”

Earning better pay was something the Americans had fought for, and lost, before.

Angela Ruggiero, currently a member of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, had to work as a security guard the summer before the 1998 Olympics to make a few extra bucks. Ruggiero said her team had a similar fight in 2000 and that it was time again for a ”a real, contested sort of debate.”

”They stood their ground and fought for what they believe was right,” she said of the current team.

Timing mattered.

The United States had won the world championships seven times when the women threatened March 15 to boycott the IIHF Women’s World Championship after a year of negotiations. They stuck together until a new four-year contract was reached March 28. The Americans received support from the unions for the NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball along with 16 U.S. senators.

Under the new contract, USA Hockey will be putting more money into women’s hockey with the national team receiving the same $50 per diem per day as the men along with similar travel and insurance perks. A women’s advisory group also is supposed to feature former and current players to help grow women’s hockey.

The women also are receiving more money per month during Olympic training, which began in September. Winning gold would mean bonuses of $57,500 from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Hockey combined.

”It’s been great to see progress since then, where USA team athletes can just play hockey,” Ruggiero said. ”That’s not to say you’ll make a lot of money, but it defers some of the expense of meals, rent and travel.”

The Canadians, winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, took notice. Canada puts more money into the sport in part because of government funding, and Hockey Canada officials said players are supported full-time for nine months around the Olympics.

”It’s amazing that they’ve brought women’s hockey a step closer to where it should be, and I think in time it’s only a matter of when as female athletes we’ll be able to play the game we love and get paid,” Canadian forward Meghan Agosta said of the Americans. ”I think hockey’s come a long way and they kind of set the bar high.”

The U.S. women found themselves honored by the Women’s Sports Foundation in October with the Wilma Rudolph Courage award . They’ve heard from politicians, celebrities and people like Billie Jean King.

In the end, what will matter most is how the Americans fare on what remains the biggest stage for women’s hockey when the Olympics begin in February in South Korea. They’ve beaten Canada three out of four games this fall as part of their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including twice in winning their third straight Four Nations Cup championship.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber said the players’ unity was a great thing in reaching the new contract. But Stauber said different goals often require a different approach, though the women’s bond can carry over.

”You got to stick together,” Stauber said.

Defenseman Gigi Marvin, a two-time silver medalist and the team’s oldest player at 30, said the Americans already have established that they’re a very close group. And captain Meghan Duggan said the bond they have gave them energy and momentum they used at the world championships. They also learned a lot about themselves through that fight.

”For sure, it brought us closer,” Duggan said. ”Right now we’re focused … on doing what we need to do to achieve our ultimate goal.”

Contract request led to breakup between Barry Trotz, Capitals

Getty Images
12 Comments

Barry Trotz’s desire for a big salary raise and five-year extension was the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Washington Capitals.

Trotz, who resigned on Monday after earning a two-year extension that was triggered by the Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory, wanted to be paid as one of the NHL’s top coaches, but the team was hesitant to make that kind of commitment. It was reported that Trotz was earning $1.5 million per season and the new deal would have only increased his salary by $300,000 a year.

The money and the term requested was a little too much for the Capitals.

“There are probably three, four guys that are making that money, so it’s the upper echelon. It’s the big-revenue teams,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said, referring to the salaries of coaches like Mike Babcock, Claude Julien and Joel Quenneville.

“I don’t think all teams pay that type of money and years. Certain teams are open to it and the rest of the league isn’t,” he added.

MacLellan described the five-year contract ask as a “sticking point.”

“You have a coach that’s been here four years, you do another five, that nine years,” he said. “There’s not many coaches that have that lasting ability. It’s a long time and it’s a lot of money to be committing to a coach.”

[Barry Trotz steps down as Capitals head coach]

If you look at the Capitals’ head coaching history over the last 16 years, they haven’t gone out of their way to open up the checkbook to pay for a big-name, high-priced coach. Before Trotz arrived in 2014, you had Adam Oates, Dale Hunter, Bruce Boudreau, Glen Hanlon and Bruce Cassidy all getting their first NHL head coaching gigs in D.C.

MacLellan said he was hopeful that both sides could work out a short-term deal, but Trotz clearly wanted security and to rightly use the leverage of a Cup victory to cash in. The GM did note that he accepted Trotz’s resignation so he’s free to pursue offers from other teams to coach next season.

As for where the Capitals go next, Todd Reirden is the front-runner to replace Trotz. Bumped up to “associate coach” in 2016, the organization values him and has been grooming him to become a head coach, either with the franchise or elsewhere. MacLellan said Reirden will get a formal interview.

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and then we’ll make a decision based on that,” he said. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. If it doesn’t, then we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MORE:Where does NHL’s coaching carousel stop after Trotz resignation?

————

Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Where does NHL’s coaching carousel stop after Trotz resignation?

Getty
6 Comments

The NHL’s coaching carousel is officially in motion after the stunning news from Monday that Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the Washington Capitals less than two weeks after lifting the Stanley Cup.

It leaves a lot of questions to be answered in the coming days and weeks. Let’s get into some of them!

Is the Capitals’ job Todd Reirden’s to lose?

At the start of the playoffs the possibility of Trotz not returning to Washington seemed to be very real, especially given his contract situation.

If the Capitals fell short of winning the Stanley Cup yet again it seemed inevitable that a coaching change was going to be coming.

Then the Capitals went and actually won the Stanley Cup and at that point it seemed inevitable that Trotz was absolutely going to return, especially when general manager Brian MacLellan said right after the Game 5 victory that if Trotz wanted to return, he would. The whole contract extension issue kept getting pushed back, and then Monday’s news broke that winning the Stanley Cup actually kicked in an automatic two-year extension for Trotz — an extension that would have been below market value for a Cup-winning coach.

With the two sides unable to work out a suitable extension, Trotz stepped down creating the new opening.

The obvious answer here is a promotion from within, and they seem to have a replacement already waiting in current assistant coach Todd Reirden.

[Related: Barry Trotz steps down as Capitals head coach]

Reirden has been with the Capitals as an assistant since the 2014-15 season and has been mentioned as a candidate for several head coaching vacancies in recent years, but the Capitals — obviously valuing him as a coach — did not allow him to interview for head coaching vacancies a year ago. In 2016, he was promoted to associate coach.

One thing is for sure, no matter who takes that job would be facing an enormous amount of pressure. You are not only replacing a coach that just finally helped end the organization’s Stanley Cup drought, but the coach that is without question the most successful coach in the history of the franchise. Expectations are going to be through the roof.

What are Trotz’s options?

Now that Trotz is a free agent his situation becomes especially intriguing because as the reigning Stanley Cup winning coach he can pretty much call his shot.

At the moment his options are extremely limited as the New York Islanders are the only team without a head coach. That could be a pretty intriguing job, especially if the Islanders are able to get superstar center John Tavares re-signed before he hits the open market. That is a dynamic offensive team that could have a superstar in Tavares (assuming he re-signs), an emerging star in Mathew Barzal, another 40-goal scorer in Anders Lee, and two other really strong top-six forwards in Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle. They need to solidify the back end and the disastrous goaltending situation (think about the possibility of a Trotz and Philip Grubauer reunion in Brooklyn!) but there is a lot to work with there.

The Islanders had a bad year, but it is not a situation that is going to require an extensive, lengthy rebuild. With a few tweaks here and there this could be a playoff team this season.

But if that doesn’t appeal to Trotz (or if the Islanders can’t make an agreement work) he is going to have to play the waiting game.

There is always the possibility that another team could see Trotz become available and decide to make a coaching change given the opportunity to add someone of that caliber.

Other than that it might be a waiting game until someone decides to pink slip their coach during the 2018-19 season. There were no coaching changes during the 2017-18 season (almost unheard of in the NHL) but given the availibility of Trotz it is not a stretch to think that a team like St. Louis, Minnesota, or Anaheim could make a change early in the season if things are not going well out of the gate.

The other option: Trotz takes the entire year off and starts fresh in 2019. He would still have the drawing card of being a Stanley Cup winning coach, still be a big name, and still be at the top of almost every “want list” for a team with a vacancy.

Either way, Trotz’s decision on Monday unexpectedly threw the NHL’s coaching carousel into overdrive and it is going to be fascinating to see where it stops.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Barry Trotz steps down as Capitals head coach

Getty
36 Comments

Some massive news from the Stanley Cup champions on Monday as the Washington Capitals announced that Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the team.

“After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals,” said Trotz in a statement.

“When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital. We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans. I would like to thank Mr. Leonsis, Dick Patrick and Brian MacLellan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization. I would also like to thank our players and staff who worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success.”

At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “wasn’t Trotz a free agent after this season with an expiring contract? What exactly is he stepping down from?” 

Well, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that was going to be true had the Capitals not won the Stanley Cup. But Trotz’s contract had a clause in it that kicked in an automatic two-year extension if the Capitals won the Cup, which they obviously did earlier this month when they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in five games. According to Friedman the extension was for below the market value given the exploding market for coaching contracts in the NHL.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that it was a $300,000 raise that would have brought his contract value to $1.8 million per year.

The two sides attempted to negotiate a new extension but could not come to terms.

Now that Trotz has resigned, the Capitals will grant permission to any team that wishes to hire Trotz, essentially making him a free agent.

Other than the Capitals, the only other team in the NHL without a head coach at the moment is the New York Islanders and it would be absolutely shocking if they did not have some serious interest in hiring him.

The last two coaches to leave a Stanley Cup champion the year after winning were Scotty Bowman when he retired following the Detroit Red Wings’ win in 2002 and Mike Keenan following the New York Rangers’ win in 1994.

During Trotz’s four years with the team the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, two Presidents’ Trophies, and compiled a 205-89-34 record. No other team in the NHL won more than 192 games during that stretch.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Ryane Clowe to join ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers as head coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Newfoundland Growlers will be the ECHL’s newest team for the 2018-19 season. They have a pretty sweet logo and now have their first head coach.

According to The Telegram, the Growlers are set to name former NHLer Ryane Clowe as head coach this week. Clowe has spent the last two seasons as one of John Hynes’ assistants with the New Jersey Devils.

Last week, the Growlers announced an affiliation agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 35-year-old Clowe, who saw his career end due to concussions, last played in the 2014-15 season, but got his first taste of coaching during the 2012 NHL lockout. After joining up with the ECHL’s now-defunct San Francisco Bulls to skate with the team, he found himself helping out behind the bench during games. That’s when the door opened to a post-playing career.

“It kind of opened my eyes to something maybe after (I finished playing) that I was thinking about possibly doing,” Clowe told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic earlier this season. “I was like, you know what, this is something I really enjoyed when I was behind (the bench). It’s not playing, but it’s kind of second-best. 

“I would have liked to go on longer (as a player), but to get in on an NHL staff right away and now be behind the bench is fortunate.”

During his two years on Hynes’ staff, Clowe was actually still under contract with the Devils as the five-year deal he signed with the team in 2013 finally expires on July 1. He did some scouting for the team in 2015-16, but coaching was the area he found he really wanted to dive into.

“Once I got into coaching, I knew that was where I wanted to be,” Clowe told The Telegram last summer. “And I know that if I get out, not only is it hard getting back in, but I’d likely have to start at the bottom.”

Now Clowe gets to be part of an organization starting from scratch and use the experience he gained from the past two years in New Jersey to get the Growlers off to a good start in their inaugural season.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.