Friday, July 18, 2014

Guy Trottier: 1941-2014

Like most who strutted their stuff prior to the 1967 expansion, all Guy Trottier wanted was a crack at earning an NHL roster spot.

When expansion did take place, Trottier didn't find himself in the NHL, but he did move up from the International Hockey League to the American Hockey League.

As a member of the IHL Dayton Gems, Trottier dominated the scoring column. His goal production jumped from 46 in 1964-65 to 68 in 1965-66.. A further increase came in Trottier's final year in Ohio, when he led the league in goals with 71.

When the dust settled on expansion, Trottier found a new home in Buffalo with the AHL Bisons. His first season in Western New York was 1967-68.

Under rookie coach Fred Shero, Trottier and fellow winger Larry Mickey, provided Shero with a strong right-side. But in early 1968, injuries put both of them out of commission. Mickey suffered a broken left arm and Trottier went down with a torn cartilage in his left knee. "Losing Trottier is a big blow," said Shero after learning of the diagnosis.

Trottier remained with the Bisons after his rights were traded to the New York Rangers on December 1, 1968. New York was well stocked up front and Trottier only saw action twice with the Blueshirts in 1968-69. However, he continued to flourish with Buffalo. When the season ended, Trottier's 45 goals were tops in the AHL. He didn't let up the following campaign, as his 55 goals in 71 games allowed Trottier to retain his goal scoring crown.

Trottier's scoring prowess didn't go unnoticed by other organizations. At the Intra-League draft held on June 9, 1970, the Toronto Maple Leafs claimed Trottier from the Rangers.

Prior to an exhibition contest against St. Louis in Ottawa, Maple Leafs GM, Jim Gregory, inked Trottier to a one-year deal.

"I must admit that there were many times when I wondered if I'd ever get a good shot at a job in the NHL," said the 29 year-old Trottier in late October.

A third period hit by Pittsburgh's Greg Polis in a tilt on December 8, knocked Trottier out of Toronto's line-up. He suffered a separated right shoulder. To fill his roster spot, Toronto called up Brian Spencer from the Tulsa Oilers.

An instant crowd favourite, Spencer experienced some tragedy early in his Leaf career. On the the evening of December 12, 1970, his father was shot and killed in Prince George, British Columbia. Roy Spencer became enraged when he discovered Brian's game wouldn't be televised on the west coast. He stormed CKPG TV and forced the station to go dark. As he was departing, Spencer was confronted by three RCMP officers and engaged them in a shoot-out. Mr. Spencer expired upon arriving at the hospital.

Along with Jim Gregory, Trottier made the trip west to represent his teammates at the funeral for Roy Spencer.

Trottier got back into action in early January. His numbers before he was sidelined were telling as to his style of play. In 24 contests, he connected for 12 goals. Due to his small stature (5'8"-165), Trottier was tagged with the the nickname "The Mouse". One Toronto newspaper noted in a headline that Trottier was the "Mouse That Scored."

When the regular season ended, Trottier had collected 19 goals and 5 assists in 61 games.

He participated in 5 playoff games, but didn't record a point. Along with several other Leafs, Trottier was fined $200 for leaving the bench when a brawl broke out at New York's Madison Square Garden. A highlight of that free-for-all occurred when Bernie Parent's goalie mask was tossed into the crowd and vanished.

Guy Trottier and his fans: This photo is from the Toronto Daily Star (Dec. 1970). The Leafs opened the Gardens for the general public (mostly kids) to watch the team workout

Year two in Toronto saw a dip in Trottier's offensive production. His goals dropped to 9 and he recorded 3 less points than the previous campaign.

In early March, there was speculation of Trottier being involved in a transaction with the Buffalo Sabres. The deal would have seen him return to his old AHL stomping-grounds in exchange for Danny Lawson. According to newspaper reports, Buffalo backed-out of the trade.

During the off-season, Trottier bolted from the Leafs to sign with Ottawa of the World Hockey Association.

The change of scenery for the 1972-73 season helped Trottier regain his scoring touch. He scored 26-times and added 32 helpers for the Nationals.

A new hockey year in 1973-74 brought Trottier back to Toronto, but it wasn't with the Maple Leafs. Unable to make a go-of-it in the Nation's capital, the Ottawa franchise moved to Toronto and became the Toros.

Playing out of Varsity Arena, Trottier commented on the difference between his new home and Maple Leaf Gardens, "I've seen nights at Maple Leaf Gardens when you could have heard a fly buzz past."

At the start of his second term with the Toros, Trottier was shipped (Nov. 1, 1974) to the Michigan Stags. He ended his year with the IHL Dayton Gems.

In his time with hockey's rebel league, Trottier produced 60 goals,

He returned to Buffalo to close-out his on-ice career in 1975-76. Trottier served as a playing-coach for the Buffalo Norsmen (NAHL). While he had a productive regular season - 58 points (36 goals) in 56 games - the playoffs were another story.

On March 27, 1976, Trottier and the Norsmen were scheduled to play a quarter-final series game against Johnstown. A battle erupted in the warm-up sending Greg Neeld to hospital and another Norsmen player to the medical room for treatment.

This display of violence was enough for Trottier and general manager, Willie Marshall, to forfeit the series. Marshall, a former scoring sensation in the American Hockey League, made harsh comments when he spoke to reporters. "Hockey is secondary in this league," noted Marshall. Then, he came out with this, "I hate to say I'm a member of this league,"

After a one-year absence from hockey, Trottier returned to coach the junior (QMJHL) Hull Olympiques. He replaced former NHL defenceman Marcel Pronovost, who left to work for the Buffalo Sabres. Trottier, who also held the general manager's title, left both positions when he resigned in early 1978.

Trottier remained out of hockey for an extended period of time, before returning for two stints (1994-96 & 2000-04) as an assistant coach with the ECHL Dayton Bombers.

Trottier wearing a Bombers cap

In Toronto to attend a Maple Leaf game at the Air Canada Centre, Trottier signed autographs at the alumni booth located at Gate 1 of the ACC

Looking back on Trottier's career, a quote from his second year with the Leafs best sums-up his approach to the game. "I just don't have the build to go around challenging people," began Trottier. "I wouldn't last long in this league if I took runs at the tough guys. I have to save my energy and stamina for the serious pursuits such as scoring goals."

Guy Albert "The Mouse" Trottier was born on April 1, 1941. He passed away on June 19, 2014 in Dayton, Ohio.

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