Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier shares life in and out of hockey in 'All Roads Home'

Bryan Trottier didn't want to go back.

It was December 1972 and his junior team — the Swift Current Broncos — was set to resume its schedule following the Christmas break.

After a rough and tumble first half of the season, however, the homesick rookie was hesitant. A booming 7 a.m. knock the following morning as a blizzard blanketed the Trottier ranch in southwestern Saskatchewan changed everything.

Tiger Williams was at the door. And he wasn't leaving without his friend and teammate.

"What in the hell are you doing here?" Trottier recalls asking as the NHL's future all-time penalty minute leader munched on breakfast alongside his parents.

"I’m bringing you back to Swift Current," (Williams) said, between bites. "I'll hog-tie you and throw you in the car if I have to, but you're coming back."

Trottier's father followed up with words he absolutely needed to hear.

"You can always come home."

A pivotal moment that helped propel the centre to six Stanley Cup victories as a player and another as a coach, the exchange is one of the many stories detailed in Trottier's book "All Roads Home: A Life on and Off the Ice," which hit shelves this week.

"It was huge," he said of that sequence of events in a recent interview.

"Defining moment for me … I think about it a lot."

He also spent a lot of time — the project started in 2017 — sifting through experiences and anecdotes lived by a player not known for openness during his time on the ice or behind the bench.

"I was pretty guarded," said the 66-year-old. "I want to be a positive influence on the next generation. I think we all want to be a good influence.

"Everything I have is due to hockey. Now's the time."

Trottier tells the story of his family, his upbringing, and how it defined him both in and out of hockey.

The son of a father with Cree, Chippewa and Métis heritage and an Irish-Canadian mother, Trottier writes about life in Val Marie — the hamlet close to the family’s ranch — along with the music, the rodeos, and the hockey.

He shares what hearing about Fred Sasakamoose and seeing George Armstrong meant for an Indigenous hockey player with big dreams.

"I looked up to them," said Trottier, before turning to his own time in the spotlight: "We do have a little bit of a responsibility. There's an opportunity to inspire, there's an opportunity to give a wonderful message."

Racism, he said, wasn't "in my face" — but it was there.

"When it popped up, I'd always turn my head," said Trottier, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997. "Whether it was directed at me or someone around me, I'd be like, 'Why is that?' It made me always ask, 'Why?'"

He said one of the reasons for writing his book now is to try and clear up any misconceptions about Bryan Trottier the person.

"Everybody knows me as a hockey player," he said. "They know a little about my upbringing. To bring a little light on that is wonderful. I love both sides of my family.

"We're an entertaining group, we're eclectic, but we have a lot of fun."

Trottier had plenty of fun on the ice after Williams drove him back to Swift Current in that snowstorm.

He'd get drafted by the New York Islanders, become woven into the fabric of the community, and win four straight Cups on a team that included Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin and Billy Smith, and was led by Al Arbour and Bill Torrey.

"Accountability was huge," Trottier said of the dynasty. "Self-accountability was more important."

The deaths of Bossy and Gillies this year hit the Islanders hard, but Trottier didn't add much to the book in the aftermath.

The stories stood as written.

"They (went) so fast," Trottier said of his linemates. "It's hard, but you love the guys and you love their families. We all grew up together … it was total respect and an honour that I held above anything else.

"I wish they were here to read it."

Trottier also touches on the second chapter of his NHL career where he won two more Cups with Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins, coaching, and life after professional hockey.

He doesn't get homesick anymore, but has always carried his late father's words from that fateful breakfast when Tiger came knocking.

"I was shy and I didn't want to leave home," Trottier said. "When you leave home, you can always come home.

"You can always bring a little bit of the world back."

Trottier now — finally — wants to share part of his.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2022.

"All Roads Home: A Life on and Off the Ice." Bryan Trottier. McClelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House Canada, 277 pages, $35.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press