David Poile couldn't help himself.
Seeing TV replays last week of his friend and former coach Barry Trotz huffing and puffing his way around Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay was just too much to take. He immediately reached out to Trotz, now the coach of the Washington Capitals.
The "hot lap," a full-speed lap around the rink, has become part of Washington's morning skate routine on the road during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals had been on a three-game winning streak with forward Alex Ovechkin doing the hot laps before a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. With a change in fortunes needed after the Capitals extended the series by winning Game 6 at home, Ovechkin, Washington's captain, nominated Trotz to do it on the morning of Game 7.
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"I texted him about that," Poile, the general manager of the Nashville Predators and Trotz's former boss, said with a laugh. "I had to. I told him, 'Don't do that again.' That looked like it was a hard lap.
"It worked though."
Sure enough, about 10 hours after Trotz had wheezed his way around the rink, his Capitals defeated the Lightning 4-0 on Wednesday to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Final against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
When the puck is dropped for Game 1 in Las Vegas on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), Poile said he'll be wearing a smile watching his buddy finally get his due on hockey's biggest stage.
"There's no one who deserves it more than Barry for the time and dedication and hard work he's put in," Poile said. "I texted him about it. I respect how busy he is right now, with interviews and practices and all the things that go in being in the Final.
"He's in a really good place. Couldn't be happier for him."
To appreciate the mutual admiration Poile and Trotz have for each other, you have to understand their lengthy history together, on and off the ice.
In 1982, Trotz, a defenseman with the WHL's Regina Pats, was invited to Capitals training camp by Jack Button, Washington's director of player personnel. Though he didn't make the team, his presence caught the attention of Poile, who was in his first season as GM of Washington.
Sixteen years later, Trotz was hired as coach of Nashville by Poile, who had been brought in to run the expansion Predators. The two shared a coach-GM relationship until 2014 when Poile announced during a tear-filled press conference that Trotz's contract would not be extended.
Though the Predators made the playoffs seven times during Trotz's 15 seasons in Nashville, they never got past the second round. Poile replaced Trotz with Peter Laviolette, and the Predators made the Final for the first time last year, losing to the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Twelve months later, it's Trotz's turn to make his first trip to the Final.
"You work so hard to make the ultimate goaI and reach the Final," Poile said. "We were fortunate enough to do it last year. That was my best experience in the NHL and the closest I'd ever come to winning it. Now Barry's going through the same.
"He did a really good job for us for 15 years and he's done a really good job for the Capitals. They've had great success in the regular season every year he's been there, and this year they're finally having great success in the playoffs. I couldn't be happier for him."
The two remain close despite the fact that Poile fired Trotz.
"That's all Barry," Poile said. "I saw something about how Barry looks at the big picture where he said, 'I'm not interested in being remembered as a hockey coach, I'm interested in being remembered as a person in what he does in his life.' That's so Barry.
"I think the tangibles and intangibles all start with the foundations you have as a person, how you carry yourself, how you treat people. It always seems to stem from that for Barry. Whatever the situation he always seems to look at it as what is the right thing to do, not the most popular thing to do. He really treats people right, He'd never expect something from a player that he didn't expect from himself.
"We had a really good relationship and still do. Some of it is the business of hockey but, again, credit to Barry for seeing past the situation of losing your job to maintain the relationship.
"I'm sure we'll always be good friends."
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