Capitals Coach Barry Trotz has bought and discarded many suits in the 38 years since he made his debut as a 17-year-old defenseman with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. Trotz has always appreciated the long-standing sartorial tradition of his sport, with players arriving to games in full suits and coaches wearing formal attire behind the bench.
“My first suit was my best suit,” Trotz recalled recently. “It was tailored, and when I was coaching in junior and working at a clothing store, I developed my own style a little bit. It was common knowledge that I was the best-dressed coach in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.”
Trotz would be the first to admit he doesn’t hold that distinction in the NHL, but he still understands the importance of looking sharp. That’s one of the reasons he’s among the coaches promoting the 10th annual Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive, which collects gently used men’s and women’s professional attire for unemployed individuals looking to reenter the workforce. People who donate items receive a coupon for 50 percent off their next purchase.
“It resonated with us, obviously,” Trotz said of the NHL Coaches’ Association’s involvement in this year’s program, which started Saturday and runs through July 31. “It’s an opportunity for us to make a difference for people who are down on their luck.”
Trotz, who took a part-time job at a clothing store after he became the general manager and head coach of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Dauphin Kings at age 23, has about a dozen suits in his game rotation these days. Among his players, Trotz said Lars Eller “carries a suit as good as anybody.” When it comes to his own clothing choices, Trotz likes to keep things simple.
“I don’t think I get too wild with anything with my suits,” he said. “For the most part, I stay the same. A gray, black, blue. I have a brown suit, but more of the basic colors. Behind the bench is not the best place for a suit all the time. Between the spilled blood, the spilled Gatorade, the water, spit and all those things, it is not maybe the best place to have a suit, but I think it’s a great tradition that the NHL does have.”
Trotz hasn’t had much reason to wear a suit since mid-May, when the Capitals were eliminated by the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year. He tuned out during the next round of the playoffs, but watched Pittsburgh beat his former team, Nashville, in the Stanley Cup final.
“You’ve got to hit it right,” Trotz, who has led Washington to back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies, said of the postseason. “From our standpoint, we felt that we were going to get by the Penguins. We felt that we outplayed them the majority of the series, but they won four, we won three. We got to Game 7 with the Stanley Cup champs. That’s the way you have to look at it, I guess. It’s no consolation, though.”
Trotz is entering the fourth and final year of his current contract, and Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said an extension has not been discussed. Trotz said Friday that his contract status has “zero effect” on him entering the season. While Washington figures to lose a few key contributors during free agency, Trotz remains optimistic that next year could be the one that he and the Capitals finally break through in the playoffs.
“A lot of people say our window is closed,” Trotz said. “I don’t think our window is closed. I think our window is a little different. I’ve talked to a lot of people that have been with teams that have set a high standard for a number of years. I was talking with [Toronto Maple Leafs Coach] Mike Babcock, who was with Detroit for a number of years. He said, ‘When I had what I thought were our best teams, we didn’t win. We lost out in the first round, we lost out one year in the finals.’ He also said, ‘The team I thought was sort of average, that was the team that ended up winning.’ You just don’t know. You just got to keep trying to win. It doesn’t help when you’re disappointed, that’s for sure, but I understand the process.”