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Stanley Cup Final

Trotz left mark on NBC's Albert years before reaching Final with Capitals

Coach shared wisdom, humor as announcer's roommate in AHL

by Kenny Albert / Special to NHL.com

"Has your passport expired? Have you ever been arrested? Have you done anything illegal? Is anyone close to you in serious trouble?"

Those were some of the questions two officers asked me as I sat stunned in the back of a police vehicle on March 16, 1992, being driven away from the small airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia. As a 24-year-old in a foreign country, I was confused but very confident that the answer to all of their questions was no.

The inquiry continued for 10-15 minutes, my heart racing faster each second. Finally, as we pulled into the driveway of a hotel, it was explained to me that the entire episode was a practical joke set up by Barry Trotz, now coach of the Washington Capitals.

 

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Barry, then 28, had recently been promoted to coach of the Baltimore Skipjacks, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Capitals. I was the Skipjacks' radio announcer.

Months earlier, Barry flubbed a few words during our pregame interview. I made the mistake of playing the tape for a few players, who enjoyed a hearty laugh at his expense. He assured me he would get me back. After months of elaborate planning, he did.

I first met Barry in the summer of 1990, after I was hired. He had just been named the lone assistant to coach Rob Laird following three years as a Capitals scout under general manager David Poile and director of player personnel Jack Button.

As the 1990-91 season approached, I found out Barry would be my roommate on the road. Minor league teams always looked to save money, and our front office decided that the rookie radio broadcaster would share a hotel room with the rookie assistant on every trip (some teams paired the broadcaster with the bus driver).

Kenny Albert at a press conference in Baltimore in June of 1990, with current Predators GM David Poile on the right (Photo courtesy of Kenny Albert)

 

I learned so much from Barry during my two seasons with the Skipjacks. Not only about hockey, but about life.

It was Barry who told me that it was OK to wear contact lenses in the shower and assured me that they wouldn't fall out (I was a new user).

It was Barry who stayed up until 4 a.m. in Binghamton, New York, during the playoffs in April 1991, working tirelessly with the screwdriver from my radio equipment to fix his mini-VCR; a VHS tape had gotten caught in the machine as he tried to edit power-play clips for the morning team meeting.

It was Barry who assigned me to fill out a form after every game that included about 20 columns across the page for each player -- early-'90s analytics -- to be faxed to Poile and Button as soon as I was finished. We affectionally referred to the chart as the Jack Button Sheet.

During the 1990-91 season, it was Barry spending countless hours talking hockey with 32-year-old defenseman Joel Quenneville, now the Chicago Blackhawks coach. Quenneville, in his 13th and final NHL season, had been sent down to Baltimore and played 59 games with the Skipjacks. (A combined 1,646 NHL wins later, Quenneville and Trotz are second and fifth all time; Quenneville with 884, Trotz with 762.)

In February 1992, Barry was named Baltimore's coach. Though he was entitled to his own hotel room, he told me he didn't want to change the karma, so we continued to room together. I moved on to Home Team Sports to call Capitals games on television in 1992-93; prior to 1993-94, Trotz and the Skipjacks moved to Portland, Maine.

Kenny Albert's scorecard from Barry' Trotz's first professional win on March 3, 1992. (Photo courtesy of Kenny Albert)

 

A group of us from the Skipjacks and Capitals always promised each other that we would do our best to attend the game if Barry ever had the opportunity to win a championship. Sure enough, Portland advanced to the Calder Cup Final in 1994 and faced Moncton, coached by Laird. We headed north to Maine for Game 6 on May 29.

Portland won 4-1 to clinch the title, and we all celebrated in the locker room with Barry and owners Tom and Joyce Ebright, who had owned the Skipjacks. (By the way, Quenneville has since won the Stanley Cup three times with Chicago, and Laird had his name inscribed on the Cup in 2012 as senior pro scout with the Los Angeles Kings.)

After four seasons in Portland, Barry was hired by Poile as the first coach of the Nashville Predators, who joined the NHL in 1998-99. Barry was always gracious with his time whenever I visited Nashville with the Rangers during his 15 seasons there, taking time out of his busy schedule on game days to have lunch, with Jack's Bar-B-Que on Broadway a favorite spot. My broadcast colleagues and Barry's assistants would join us on occasion.

Kenny Albert with Byron Dafoe and Dave Starman after Portland won the 1994 Calder Cup. (Photo courtesy of Kenny Albert)

 

A few years ago I received a call out of the blue from Barry during the NHL Draft. I initially thought he dialed me by accident, but he wanted to pick my brain about an NHL veteran I had watched play closely for years; the Capitals were thinking about signing him. I was shocked and flattered that he was actually asking me for a scouting report. But that's Barry. He never leaves a stone unturned.

Not only is Barry a tremendous coach, he is an even better person. Barry and his wife, Kim, always made members of the Skipjacks organization feel welcome with invitations to their house for dinner. The strong bond remains after a quarter of a century. Numerous texts and social media messages were sent back and forth between Barry's former players and colleagues after the Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with their Game 7 victory at the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday. Many of those folks will be on hand, and countless others whose lives he has touched will be watching from afar, if Trotz has the chance to win another championship in the coming weeks.

If the officers asked me in the winter of 1992 if I ever dreamed of broadcasting Stanley Cup Final games with my former roomie behind the bench, the answer would have been a resounding yes.

Kenny Albert, an "NHL on NBC" play-by-play announcer, will call the Stanley Cup Final for Westwood One and NBC Sports Radio.

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