Bryan John Trottier, hockey player (born 17 July 1956 in Val Marie, SK). A National Hockey League (NHL) player and coach, Bryan Trottier played centre for 18 seasons with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, and then became an assistant coach with the Penguins, Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres, and head coach of the New York Rangers.
Trottier was born outside the small town of Val Marie, Saskatchewan; one of four children in his family. He grew up on a farm and played hockey on a frozen pond that his father cleared by employing a machete to remove a beaver dam. He dreamed of becoming Montreal Canadien superstar Jean Béliveau.
In 1972, at age 16, he left home to become a member of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Canada Hockey League. Trottier moved with the team when it became the Lethbridge Broncos in 1974. He grew terribly homesick and considered quitting hockey but a good friend who would also play in the NHL, Tiger Williams, convinced him to stay with the team. In 1975, Trottier was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Trottier was a member of Team Canada for the 1975 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s Junior Under 20 World Hockey Championships — the first world hockey championship played in Canada. He performed well, scoring five goals and two assists, but the team came second to the Soviet Union.
NHL Playing Career
In 1974, Trottier was drafted by the New York Islanders in the NHL’s 2nd round, 22nd overall. In his second NHL game, he scored three goals and had two assists. In his first season, 1975–76, his 95 points was a record for an NHL rookie and earned him the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year. He earned the respect of fans and players as a tough, energetic and effective two-way centreman, perhaps the NHL’s best. On 23 December 1978, he established a record when in the second period he scored four goals and two assists, the most points in one period. In the 1978–79 season, Trottier scored an impressive 134 points and earned the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer and the Hart Memorial Trophy as its most valuable player.
In 1979–80, Trottier led the Islanders to their first Stanley Cup, having scored 42 regular season goals and earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs. He was an important member of the powerful Islanders team that won three more Stanley Cups in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Trottier surprised many people by agreeing to play for Team USA rather than Team Canada in the 1984 Canada Cup tournament. He explained that he lived in New York, his North American Indian card enabled him to cross the border freely, and that his wife was American. He said, “Nothing against Canada, but I’d like to play for the U.S. and do something for the country that has been so good to me.” Team Canada won the tournament.
Trottier always respected the fact that his being a professional athlete placed him in the public eye and afforded him an opportunity to do good things for his community. In 1989, he earned the King Clancy Memorial Award for exemplifying leadership qualities on and off the ice and for making significant humanitarian contributions. The respect he earned from fellow players was demonstrated by the fact that from October 1984 to November 1992, he served as president of the National Hockey League Players’ Association.
In 1990, Trottier became a free agent and signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His role was to bring experience and leadership to a young team — and to Mario Lemieux, who would become a superstar — and teach players what it takes to win. He and Lemieux were key to the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992. He sat out the 1993–1994 season, working in the Islanders front office, but returned to the Penguins for the next season which saw a disappointing output of only four goals in 41 games. He retired at the season’s end.
In his 1,279 game NHL playing career he scored 524 goals and 901 assists for 1,425 points. He scored 277 points in playoff games. When he retired, he was the NHL’s sixth overall top scorer. He had been chosen to play in the NHL All-Star game eight times. The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Trottier in 1997, which was his first year of eligibility. Also in 1997, he was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. In 1997, the magazine Hockey News printed a list of the top 100 NHL hockey players of all time and chose Trottier as number 30. In 2001, his number 19 was retired by the New York Islanders.
Trottier served as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1994 to 1997. He coached the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates in 1997–98. He then became an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche won the NHL championship in 2001 — Trottier’s seventh Stanley Cup.
Trottier began the 2002-2003 season as the head coach of the New York Rangers. The defensive style of play he imposed on the team was not popular with fans. After only 54 games, and with a losing record, he was dismissed. Trottier was an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres for the 2014–2015 season.
Trottier is Métis and proud of his Indigenous ancestry. He reaches out to Indigenous youth across Canada. In 2003, he started an Aboriginal Alumni hockey team that toured Canada doing demonstrations and teaching skating and hockey skills to young people. He was honoured with the 1998 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for sports.