Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Son of an NHL Head Coach is Discovered in Vladimir

When Barry Trotz, the head coach of the NHL Washington Capitals, gave an interview to a Russian sports publication, "Sports-Express," he mentioned that one of his sons was working in Vladimir.  Several Russian sports publications tracked down the son, Tyson, and he ended up giveing a number of interviews.  Following is a translation of the longest of the published interviews.

Tyson is currently at home in the States where he is recovering from an operation on one of his knees. (See the comments on his knee problems below.)  He will be returning to Vladimir in August for a second year of teaching English in the American Home program.

Sport Tribune

March 30, 2016


The thin blue line

The interesting history of hockey -- and more

"Kholodets -- I don’t know how people can eat this." 
The son of the Washington Capitals head coach is a teacher in Vladimir

Two weeks ago, Barry Trotz, head coach of  the Washington Capitals -- the best team in the NHL this season -- gave an interview to "Sport-Express" [a Russian publication].   In it, he talked about the great Russian forward Alexander Ovechkin, the new star Dmitry Orlov, other hockey heroes, and -- very briefly -- about his son, who loves Russian culture so much that he has gone to work in Russia.
For the last 8 months 24-year-old Tyson Trotz has been living in Vladimir.  Cyril Novokshchenov [traveled to Vladimir] to visit with him.

The American Home is a private school hidden in an attractive three-storey building in the center of Vladimir.  The school's customers are local residents who want to learn English from native speakers from the United States. Tyson Trotz has been working here since last September.

- You only teach English?

- Yeah.  But on Saturdays we give presentations.  Each teacher prepares a presentation which they give during the school year.  Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday we give lessons; on Wednesdays we have a teacher's meeting, and we prepare for our classes, grade assignments, and do other necessary things.  Conversation classes meet Wednesday evenings. The conversation classes are held for those who do not want to go to regular classes.  They come just once a week to practice their English.  Some students have reached a high enough level that they don't need to attend a regular class.  The students range in age from 12 or 13 up to 50 years old or even older.

-Do you remember a particular day when you woke up and realized that you wanted to devote your life to the study of Slavic culture?

- No, it was a process.  My family has Slavic roots.  [A great grandfather] was born in Ukraine.  So this fascinated me more and more -- the history and culture; and I learned more and more. How old was I when I decided that my future work will be associated with this topic?  I think I was about 9 or 10 years old.

- How do you perceive your future work?

- I'm not sure exactly what I want to do right after I finish working at the "American Home."  I will stay here for another year.   Learning about Russia will be of help no matter how my career develops because I want to do something associated with Russian culture.

 I love to teach.  In college I did some work as a private tutor, helping high school kids who were struggling with their grades.  I like to teach people.  Perhaps one day I will become a university professor, and I will teach students about Russian culture. I probably won't teach the Russian language -- which is very difficult.

 My ultimate dream is to write historical novels about Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine.

- Which historical period is of particular interest to you?

- I love antiquity:  Kievan Rus, the Tartar-Mongol invasion, and a little bit after that. I'm not a fan of modern history.

-  Is your work similar to your father's work as a hockey coach?

- I think it is. Much depends on the organization. My father has become a head coach, so he has an advantage.  Now his job is to lead the other coaches. We both need to make decisions.  A coach needs to know his players, to understand in what combinations they work best.  Right?  This is true for teaching as well. Most students learn best from specific types of activities or when they work with a certain other student. Creating lessons which take different learning styles into account is similar to choosing the best combinations of players in hockey. Different people have different characteristics. This semester I did some reorganizing of the lessons to help the students better understand the material.

- According to you, a teacher can be friendly with his students?

- It depends on the students.  I'm friends with most of my students.  Among them are my closest friends.  But at the same time, if the students do not respect you, do not listen to you, this does not work.  You just need to know your students well before you choose your approach to them.

* * *

- Before you moved to Washington in 2014, for 16 years your father was the coach in Nashville. Was he very upset when they decided to let him go?

- Of course, it was sad. After such a long time in one place, moving is always sad.  But at the same time, for a NHL coach to work for 16 years in one place -- it's incredible. Well, the move to Washington -- it wasn't bad.  My parents like life in the capital.

-   What is your father like when he is coping with disappointment after serious setbacks?

- In his first years [as a coach] job stress was much stronger.  He tried to leave all of  his [work-related problems] at work, not drag them home.  But if the season ended badly, we just left for our Canadian cottage on a lake and vacationed there.  The view is simply stunning.  This lake -- Okanagan -- is on a list of the 10 most beautiful lakes in the world.  

                                                                   Tyson's girlfriend at the lake

The water is simply beautiful.  In general, we go there to relax.  We rest, we do a lot of hiking.  In the summer it's an incredible place.  You can just sit and enjoy the view, or you can take a boat ride.

- Who is stricter: Barry Trotz the coach or Barry Trotz the father?

- The coach. Mom was defiantly the stricter one.  She thought that my dad wasn’t strict enough with us. You do realize that my mother raised us while my father was at work.  If we wanted to do something, and my mother was against it, we always ran to our father, because we knew that he would let us do what we wanted to do. And when my mother found out about this, my poor unknowing father was the one who got in trouble.

- You left to study [in college] before your  parents moved to Washington?

- Yes, I attended Sewanee [The University of the South].  It is located in southern Tennessee between Nashville and Chattanooga.  It is an hour and a half  drive from Nashville. You can easily go home.  I used to go to Nashville for a [hockey] match, and then return to campus the next morning.

- Did you play any sports at the university?

- Formally, no.  I just exercised on my own.  I walked a lot and went hiking in the woods, rode my bike, skateboarded, and went to the gym.  In general, to get on any university team, you need to seriously pursue a particular sport.  As luck would have it, they didn't have a hockey team [at Sewanee] when I was there. This was only added after I graduated from the university.  So I played hockey only when I came home for the holidays or weekends.

- How is it that in the US university sports are so popular?

-   In part, people just love to watch their children achieve something.  Many universities are proud of the achievements of their sports teams.  Students support them even after graduation. I think many people root for their university's teams because of their fond memories of their student days.

- Who do you see yourself as:  Canadian or American?

- I live in America, I was born there, so, of course, I am an American. But we spend so much time in Canada, my parents are Canadians, so ... There's a strange phenomenon.  When I'm in America, all my friends think of me as a Canadian, and when I am in Canada all my friends think of me as an American.

- You grew up the son of a hockey coach. How much did this effect your childhood?

- A little.  But when people ask about this, they comment with delight: "Oh, that's your father -- the coach, that's so cool!" ... Yes, this is interesting, but everything in life has its pros and cons.
I remember in college I asked a classmate: "What does your father do?"  "Well, he works for the military.  He invents things for the army. he collects information. I'm not sure exactly what he does because we are not allowed to talk about it at home.  "It turns out that your father might be a spy or someone like that."  It's funny....

We grew up in Tennessee.  Before the [NHL] "Predators" there wasn't any hockey. The city [of Nashville] had just one ice rink, as I recall. A second rink was built [only after the NHL Predators came]. Nobody in Nashville understood the game of hockey. I played hockey as a young child in Maine .  It was strange to move from the north where ice hockey culture is everywhere, to the south where hardly anyone was familiar with the game. But in addition to regular trips to the ice rink, there were some events that we had to attend with celebrities because my father was also a celebrity in Nashville.

- Does it snow in Tennessee?

- Yes, it snows, but only occasionally, not like [here in Vladimir].  [In Tennessee] there is only occasionally enough snow for a few days sledding.  I remember two times when the city had significant snow storms and the roads were covered with ice. We even suggested skating on the streets.  I think that once we even did this.

- In Nashville do they play anything besides country music?
 - Actually, yes.  I am not a fan of country music. But mom and dad like it very much.  I prefer rock, heavy metal, folk, swing, and 30s and 40s music.

* * *

- What has most surprised you in Russia?

- I did not experience any major culture shock. When I arrived, it turned out that everything was pretty much as I had expected it to be.  "Great"! Though there was one thing that was quite surprising:  Russians do not participate in recycling.  There is a park next to the building where  I live.  It could be a very nice park, but there is so much trash....  And this despite the fact that the Russians love nature.

There was also the case when we had planned to go to the countryside.  At the last minute some of the teachers decided not to go.  When we arrived at the dacha, the food had already been cooked. There were 10 kilograms of sashlik for just 10 people!  [1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.]  And there were even salads, bread, and so on. We stayed there for the whole day.  We ate and ate.  We drank tea.  We talked, and we ate some more. It was fun.

- In Russia, is there a food that you do not understand?

- Yeah. Aspic [kholodyets]. I do not know how people can manage to eat this. I was told that it is good for my knee problem, so I tried it, but ...  They then said that I have not tried the right kind of kholodyets. I was assured that if I tried the right version, then I would like it.  But with each new attempt it got worse.

- How did you injure your knees?

- It resulted from the way I walk.  My feet turn in when I walk. As a result, the stress on my knees is increased. When my knees started to hurt I thought nothing serious would  come from this.  Of course I should have sought treatment right away.  It is unfortunate that I currently can't take long walks or ride a bike.  But that will soon change.

 - What is your favorite Russian word?

- Probably pereputyvat' [to confuse].  That's funny.

- Has your ability to speak Russian improved during the months you have lived here?

 - Yes, there has been significant progress.  Of course, there are still problems.  We are in a [somewhat] enclosed environment.   At work, I speak English with my students, [and with the other teachers and most of the Russian staff].  This limits my opportunity to practice my Russian.  I of course speak Russian with my host family.  Actually, I can speak Russian much better now, but, like most people who study a language, it seems to me that my progress is always not enough.

- Do you rent an apartment here?

- No, I live with a family -- a mother and son and a babushka [grandmother].  I have my own room, I am fed breakfast and dinner, and we spend the weekends together.  It is a very nice family.  They treat me like a full-fledged member of the family. We often go to their dacha, collect mushrooms, and rest.

- Do you ever feel overfed ?

- Well, not now.  But it seemed that that was what was being attempted when I first got here.  There was a lot of food.  Many of our teachers encountered this.  The first couple of months I had enough to eat for breakfast and lunch to last me for the whole day.  Generally  Russians conserve food more -- they throw out less [than Americans].

- What do you miss most in terms of lifestyle?

- For example, while I definitely like the public transportation system in Russia, at home in America I was able to ride a bike and walk everywhere.  There is a problem with doing that here.

Of course my knees are the main reason I can't do this, but even with a healthy body, biking all over Vladimir could be dangerous. There are many cars and no bike paths to safely ride on.

I miss Mexican food.  You don't cook spicy food in Russia.

Of course, I have especially missed being able to see close relatives and friends.  During this school year I was able to see my parents, one of my sisters, and my girlfriend only once.  That was over the [Christmas and] New Year's holiday [when I was able to fly home for a few days].

 - You have a girlfriend?  Does she know what Russian girls are like?

 - She knows of course, but she isn't worried -- just like I do not have to worry about her. I trust her, and she trusts me.

It's funny. When I meet people here [and mention that I have a girlfriend], they all say, "Oh, she's in America? You need to have a Russian girlfriend."   I don't think my girlfriend would like that!

- What else do you do in your spare time?

- There isn't very much of that.  When there is some free time I cook and hang out with Russian friends, the majority of whom I have met at the American Home. We get together, chat. Some times we play board games. We did this just a couple of days ago.

When my knees are better, I will be able to get out and about more.  I was in Suzdal for Maslenitsa [Mardi Gras]. That was a lot of fun.  I want to see more of the Golden Ring.  I want to make regular day trips to neighboring communities.

- I'm from Moscow?   Does that city interest you?

- It is an interesting city, of course, but because I currently can't  walk very much it doesn't make sense to go there now. Maybe I'll go there for the Victory Day celebration.  I've been wanting to see that for a number of years.

I know St. Petersburg much better.  I spent a couple of months there right after finishing  my freshman year at the university.  I've already traveled there twice this time around.  I have a friend there.  I have stayed with her, and she has shown me the city.  We met in America.  She was at my university as a part of an exchange program.

- Why did you choose Vladimir?

- It's small -- which is a nice bonus.  But first of all I was looking for a suitable job.  In St. Petersburg I have friends, so I looked there first.  But the approach to teaching was ultimately  something like "use this textbook,  give this lecture, do this exercise."

Here in the American Home everything is much more personal.  We have a student-centered program, and we try to make the learning process interesting and fun.  This is what really attracted me. It's very important for me to have a job where I can be proud of what I do.  Plus, I want to be able to teach effectively and to gain experience for the future.

In addition, the other schools do not offer anything except money. They provide no help with the necessary living arrangements.  In contrast, the American Home helps you settle in with your host family and provides whatever additional assistance you need.  Plus there are Russian teacher-supervisors who teach us how to teach and respond to whatever questions we have. This is also important.

I did not want to go somewhere and read lectures.  I wanted to be a teacher, to help people learn English and not just do what they would be able to do without me.

I love Vladimir.  It has what I love most in life -- nature, history, and Russian culture. And now I'm in an ancient provincial Russian city.   It's as if the city was made for me, it's such a perfect fit.
Concerning my salary, I do not remember exactly how much I was offered in St. Petersburg.  The pay is undoubtedly less here -- but the cost of living is lower in Vladimir.

-Are you paid in dollars?

-I'm paid in rubles.  This is very funny.  Whenever someone talks with me about money, they say, "You're an American.  You are so lucky with the exchange rate.  But my salary is paid in rubles.  It would be nice to be earning dollars, but that is not the way it is.  [NOTE:  For the teachers to be paid in dollars the students would have to pay the tuition in dollars....]

But to friends and family I always say, come quickly while the exchange rate is so favorable.

- Tell me about your tattoo.

- I designed it based on Slavic folk art which I have studied for about one year. Here are all the elements for a traditional interpretation -- these designs are used for Easter eggs. This line in the center symbolizes life's journey.  A few parts:  these stand for power, wisdom, loyalty and protection from life's obstacles.

It is a visual reminder of the things that are important to me about my heritage.

- Imagine that you need to promote Russia to foreigners. What would you tell them?

- I would start by describing a church. If you choose just one Russian church, people usually talk about Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral.   It is a classic.  But I like the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg.  It is very beautiful.  In general, Russian churches are something you must see. I have always admired them. I think Russia has the most beautiful churches in the world.

Oh, that's a difficult question (said in Russian). Of course, there is also nature.  No one has more of this [natural beauty] than Russia. I cannot wait to research it thoroughly.

Another feature would be all of the museums with their history. People always want to go to Europe [to see museums], but in Russia there is almost everything that you can find in Europe, in terms of culture and tourism.  It is just that what Russia has is not well advertised.  People want to go to Paris and stare at the Eiffel Tower,  go to see the Louvre. In Russia there are even better art galleries, and the Eiffel Tower is not all that beautiful.

- Do you like Russian weather, nature, history?  And what about the people?

- I like the people.  I have a lot of friends in Russia. I just wish I had more free time to spend with them.  Many Americans believe that Russians are not very friendly, because they do not smile in public.  But this is not the case, it is not because of hostility.  I am smiling now.  It is probably easy to spot foreigners on the street. 

In Russia, smiling is a way of showing sincere feelings.  In America or England constantly smiling can result in your being mistaken for a salesperson.

When Tyson found out I was in Vladimir for the first time, he offered to take me on a tour of the city center.

- And where are you from?  He asks, when we are out on the street.

- I was born in Ukraine, then I moved to Minsk, and from there to Moscow.

-  Oh, I would love to go to Minsk. My friend has family in Belarus and I would really love to visit there but the Visa costs $300 dollars, so I think I’ll just stay in Russia for now.

We climbed to the top of the earthen rampart next to the Golden Gates.

- The Golden Gates are the symbol of Vladimir, reportedly built in 1164. I often wandered along the embankment when I first arrived. It is very interesting to look around and imagine how it must have been a thousand years ago when the defenders tried to hold off the raids of the Tatar-Mongols.  US history only goes back 200 years.  We have nothing like this.

We went to the viewing platform [on top of the Museum of Old Vladimir], which offers an overview on the Klyazma River and the lowlands around the town.

- Can you catch the smell of coal?  Here nearby is a smithy. I studied blacksmithing in the States and would like to continue here, but unfortunately the master does not give lessons.

After half an hour walking Tyson has already begun to limp, and we go in to a coffee shop on Lenin Prospect to relax.

- In principle, we can finish up now if you're tired.

- No, no, we need to see the monument to Vladimir the Great.  It should not be missed.  This is another important symbol of the city.

[Question from Tyson]: In general, how do you like Vladimir?

- [Reporter]:  It is very calm, measured, but I couldn't live a long time in this city.

- [Tyson]:  I'm the opposite.  I have been to New York several times.  I can't stay there for very long.  It is very urban.  Even in Washington DC life is less "city-like" in this respect -- after all, there is a limit on the height of buildings, and, as a result the whole city is not covered with skyscrapers
- Now that you have lived in Russia for awhile, is there anything you would like to see exported from Russia to America?

- In America I really miss dachas.  I think everyone should have a dacha -- and, of course, a banya. We go to the sauna, but it is not quite the same as a banya.  The whole cultural phenomenon.  The banya.  It's just awesome!

Cyril Novokschenov

Translated by Ron Pope


  1. Good interview. Great dedication.

    Warmest regards,
    IT Manager
    American Classifieds

  2. Good interview. Great dedication.

    Warmest regards,
    IT Manager
    American Classifieds

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