Seven Stanley Cup rings. A remarkable 524 career goals. A hearty 901 career assists. A Conn Smythe Trophy. A Calder Trophy. An Art Ross Trophy. A Hart Memorial Trophy. A King Clancy Memorial Trophy. A spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Bryan Trottier brings one of the most impressive resumes in NHL history to the Buffalo Sabres coaching staff, where he’ll serve as an assistant under Ted Nolan this upcoming season.
Trottier’s relationship with Nolan dates back to the Sabres coach’s first stint in Buffalo back in the mid-’90s. As Trottier was walking back to his hotel in the middle of winter from the Aud, Nolan pulled up beside him in his car and offered him a ride.
On the Tuesday edition of Sabres Hockey Hotline, Trottier told the story to hosts Kevin Sylvester and Andrew Peters.
“He said ‘Hey, do you want a ride?’And I jumped in and we had a quick, five-minute conversation,” Trottier said. “From that, I think a mini-friendship was born because when he became coach of the New York Islanders, it just cranked up again and it was just like old times.”
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Nolan offered Trottier an assistant coaching position after a series of conversations that heated up in the spring and boiled over through the summer. The two exchanged philosophies and eventually, Nolan offered him a job. Buffalo announced Trottier as part of a new assistant coaching staff last week.
He said he’s jumping into the fray with both feet and is ready to get going.
My message for the young guys coming into camp is bring your best game. - Bryan Trottier
“My message for the young guys coming into camp is bring your best game. Bring your best game at the practice, bring your best game come gametime and we’re going to build a confidence,” he said. “We’re going to build a real consistentcy here so when you step on the ice, you’re building good habits.”
Back when Nolan coached the Islanders from 2005-07, Trottier served as the team’s player development coach. Danny Flynn, another of Nolan’s new assistants, was also on the staff.
Trottier worked mainly with the team’s minor leaguers and prospects and remembers having many spirited debates with Nolan over certain players. However, afterwards, he said they’d also part ways on a good note.
Trottier got to know Nolan’s family and learned more about him over the years through mutual friends.
“From that, I think you develop another level of respect,” Trottier said.
He worked as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche when they won the Stanley Cup in 2001. Young players like Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk benefitted from Trottier’s tutelage.
“[They had] really raw skills but [were also] just wonderful students of the game that wanted to learn,” Trottier said. “When something would click, all of a sudden the light bulb went on. They’d give you that little smile and that was my reward. That was just like, ‘all right. They’re getting it now.’”
He hopes to bring some of his old-school mentality and tenets to a game that has picked up in both talent and speed in recent years. Even with the changes, he thinks that some of those core values are still essential to having success.
Trottier knows a little something about winning. He won the Stanley Cup six times as a player – four times with the New York Islanders and twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins – and then again as an assistant in Colorado.
“Things that I believe have been consistent throughout championship teams that I’ve seen whether I’m watching the current hockey teams or teams of old,” Trottier said. “There are just some things that are tried and true and they always work. I believe in those things. I believe in them with all my heart.”
Of all his great accomplishments, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1980 meant the most to Trottier, although he said all of the awards he’s collected over the years are special.
On a team loaded with talent and clutch performers – the Islanders also had Mike Bossy, Billy Smith, Denis Potvin and Butch Goring on the team to name a few – Trottier joked that he won the Conn Smythe that year by luck.
“They probably picked my name out of a hat,” he said.
Any number of players on the team could have won that year according to Trottier and it kick-started a four-year run of Islanders championships. To be named the most outstanding player in the postseason that first year made it that much more special.
“It’s such a trophy that reflects the effort you give and also recognizes your teammates efforts for the greatest trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup,” Trottier said. “To be recognized as the best player of the playoffs that year was above and beyond what you ever expect people are going to appreciate in your efforts.”