Kissing the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas with Barry Trotz and bringing it to Baltimore

June 10, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

in 2006 when Paul Kariya came aboard after the lockout season of hell and the teams in 2011 and 2012 were quite legit. I have a closet full of Nashville Predators gear – jerseys, T-shirts, sweaters, hats and towels – that we accumulated over the years.

Trotz has always had an open door policy to visit with him, talk hockey or real life, and the years of him building this quiet storm in Nashville only to watch them go to the Stanley Cup finals last year was agonizing for me on his behalf because I was down there 20 years ago when they were a novelty act and downtown was seedy. The whole place has changed and the Nashville Predators are as much a part of that city as country music. I told him that seeing what happened there last June must’ve been like building a mansion and watching someone else jumping around having fun in your pool!

My wife was battling for her life in the spring of 2014 when my son tossed me a text that received at the hospital that said: “Hey Dad, I think the Trotz is going to get the Caps job!” After his 15th season in Nashville, he left and was quickly named the head coach of my childhood team on May 26, 2014. My wife received the first bone marrow transplant that saved her life on June 26, 2014.

Ted Leonsis had reached to me in the hours after my wife’s diagnosis just eight weeks earlier and we are on-again, off-again text mates. I text him the moment I heard the Washington Capitals had hired my friend from Dauphin, Manitoba: “You’ll never regret hiring Barry Trotz!”

Trotz began his tenure wearing her #JennStrong bracelet on the ice every day at Kettler in the summer of 2014. By the time he did his first show with us in the fall, she was recovering and we were swabbing for There Goes My Hero. That night he told me the story about Tom Ebright and the cheap bottle of champagne.

Tom Ebright was the owner of the Baltimore Skipjacks who moved my beloved team to Portland, Maine in 1993 after losing gobs of money trying to make hockey work here. The first year as the Portland Pirates, Trotz won the Calder Cup. In 1995, when Trotz lost Game 7 of the Calder Cup finals in Rochester, Ebright presented Trotz with a bottle of champagne he told him to drink when he won the Stanley Cup.

Trotz has talked with me annually about opening that 1995 Vintage Cook’s champagne whenever Lord Stanley sends the hockey gods calling.

They finally called on Thursday night and Trotz invited us to the team party to soak in the excitement of the greatest night of his professional life. I guess he wanted to see a guy in a red Skipjacks jersey to remind him where he came from 30 years ago?

Everything about the journey and this incredible championship has been surreal. I certainly didn’t expect to bump into Tony Robbins twice in three days and discuss personal achievement and a future Date With Destiny event but that happened, too. My wife credits a Robbins fire walk with him in 2004 as being a foundational part of her surviving two leukemia battles and bone