Nashville Predators fans don’t surprise Barry Trotz as often as they once did. But it still happens.
The most recent shocker came last Wednesday during the team’s annual ‘Skate of the Union’ event. Trotz, one of the five franchise officials who spoke during the town hall-style meeting, had to delay his opening remarks while the several thousand in attendance honored him with a standing ovation.
“To me, I’m really humbled by that because I feel I’m just sort of a Nashville guy,” the only coach in franchise history said.
A Nashville guy?
Trotz was raised in Manitoba, played junior hockey in Saskatchewan and rose through the ranks in such out-of-the-way places as Spokane, Wash., and Portland, Maine.
His sense of connection with the local population and surroundings, however, underscores what he believes is an important step in the evolution of the franchise.
“I was one of the people who said it would take almost a generation for a non-traditional market to become a hockey market,” he said. “… We are a hockey market.
“We’re established as ‘of Nashville.’ I think in the first few years, we were trying to become [that]. I think we’re big part of it now. The Titans are and we are. You think of Nashville you think it’s a football town, it’s a hockey town — it’s a good sports town. We’re a part of the fabric.
Trotz pointed to the attendance and enthusiasm of last week’s event as both evidence of his assertion and another example of the city’s ability to deliver the unexpected. The ‘Skate of the Union’ was an all-day sales event that drew a consistent stream of people to Bridgestone Arena.
“I was amazed when I came in,” he said. “I dropped some stuff in my office and I walked upstairs and … there were more people here than for the meet the team party, almost. We’re in the middle of summer. It’s 100 degrees out. That just blows me away.
“We’re a young team growing together and the fan base is growing. The passion for the game … I walk around the city and it’s a great place to live. The players love it here. … To me, we have a really good thing going.”
Trotz is the second-longest tenured active coach in the NHL and the league’s record-holder for most consecutive games coached beginning with a franchise’s first game. Early in the 2011-12 season, he will lead the team in its 1,000th contest.
He has been a finalist for the league’s Jack Adams Trophy (coach of the year) each of the last two years.
For that, the fans who turned out last Wednesday figured he deserved some applause.
“The longer I’m here, it just seems that Nashville always surprises me,” Trotz said. “I was wondering if anyone would show up for the  draft and it sold out. Just stuff like that.
“I’m surprised but not surprised anymore. That’s just the way Nashville is.”