The driving force (and smiling face) behind Barry Trotz

Chris Russell
May 26, 2018 - 1:56 pm
Barry Trotz

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


He may not have a home in the NHL when the Stanley Cup Final is over -- but no matter the result, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz will always know home is where his heart is and that’s all that matters.

His Capitals are set to take on the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, and four more wins will cement not only Alex Ovechkin’s greatness, but also likely define Trotz's place in history as well. 

While that means a lot in the hockey world, Trotz is defined by so much more.

Trotz is a husband and a father of Tiana, Tyson, Shalan and Nolan. He's a giver of his time to a wonderful organization, Best Buddies, and helped build the Nashville Predators from an expansion team into what is now a Western Conference powerhouse.

Nolan, Trotz’s youngest son and a young man, who by sheer nature requires the most love and patience, is his driving force.  Nolan was born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder involving the 21st chromosome, that has no cure.

I know this all too well. My son, Tyler, born nearly 17 years ago in Las Vegas (which is a bit ironic) was also born with Down Syndrome.

On Friday, Trotz was asked a hockey question about what he thought about the Capitals when he was still coaching the Predators and about his decision to come to Washington.

He answered with his typical thoughtfulness, but peeled an extra layer back. 

He turned down a couple of other interviews, saying “I wanted to come here” because he started with the Caps organization and there was familiarity. 

Also, and more importantly, Trotz said when you “have a special-needs son, that prioritized everything. (It's) where I wanted to be.”

"Familiarity" is something of extreme importance for Trotz and the youngest member of the Trotz family, and quite honestly, it’s something that might help the Capitals retain their head coach when the season is over. 

If it his decision to stay and it could be, Trotz and his wife will have to decide if it is in their best interest and Nolan’s best interest to uproot their lives again to move somewhere new and deal with a completely foreign everything. New friends, new home, new school, new everything.

It seems easy but it’s far from it for normal teenagers and extremely difficult for families with Down Syndrome teens.

That’s a very difficult decision to wrestle with no matter what happens in the Stanley Cup Final. What isn’t difficult to understand is the love and joy that Trotz feels and exudes when talking about his son.  

I asked Trotz on Friday morning if he’s had any moments of celebration since returning from Tampa as a conference champion.

"No, not really," he said. 

But what he said next caught a few reporters off-guard and several admitted to me afterwards of getting a bit emotional. 

“The great gift of having someone with special needs is win or lose, his mood doesn’t change. Mine does! When I see him, if we lose, I’m happy. If we win and I see him, I’m happy. When I’m not so happy and then I see him, my mood changes and his never does. 

“He’s got the best smile. He’ll just smile at you and I’m like ‘Whatever happened, we’ll deal with it tomorrow.’ And that’s the gift that I think that he gives me, and my family and I’m pretty blessed that way.”

On the eve of coaching on hockey's biggest stage, Trotz will no doubt be thinking about Nolan and his smile and the happiness that he provides to everyone he touches.

Some will only be happy if the Capitals lift the Stanley Cup. Not Trotz. He has Nolan. Win or lose.