A Life: Brian Trottier; ‘A true ambassador for the community of Hartford’

Hartford Athletic Director Brian Trottier, center, laughs with umpires Jon Reed, left, and Don Strohmeyer before a baseball game on May 18, 2006, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford Athletic Director Brian Trottier, center, laughs with umpires Jon Reed, left, and Don Strohmeyer before a baseball game on May 18, 2006, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file — James M. Patterson

Brian Trottier during his time as Hartford's softball coach in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

Brian Trottier during his time as Hartford's softball coach in an undated photograph. (Family photograph) Family photograph

Brian Trottier stands with his wife, Patty, during the dedication of Hartford's press box in his honor in 2019. (Famliy photograph)

Brian Trottier stands with his wife, Patty, during the dedication of Hartford's press box in his honor in 2019. (Famliy photograph) Family photograph


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-25-2023 10:29 PM

HARTFORD — Brian Trottier understood better than just about anyone in the Upper Valley what local sports can mean for both individuals and communities.

A versatile athlete growing up in Brattleboro, Vt., Trottier spent 31 years working in athletics at Hartford High School. He first arrived at Hartford in 1975, teaching industrial arts and coaching track and field, girls basketball and softball, and spent his last eight years at Hartford as athletic director.

Such was his passion for sports and his desire to be around the area’s young athletes that he remained involved as a multi-sport official and a clock operator for Hurricanes football well after his retirement.

“He felt this way all through when he was teaching and when he was a coach,” said Patty (Neumeister) Trottier, Brian’s wife of 52 years. “He wanted to teach (kids) how to be a good person. He wanted them to respect adults, whether you were a teacher, a coach or an official. And he felt strongly that sports was a good way to learn about living life.”

Trottier died on Jan. 7 at age 74 after several years battling Parkinson’s disease.

Trottier participated in football, basketball, baseball and track during his youth in Brattleboro, graduating in 1967, and the following year he received an associate degree from the Franklin Institute of Drafting. By that time he had started dating Patty, a classmate throughout middle and high school who was attending Peru (Neb.) State College to get a teaching degree, so Trottier followed his future wife to the Great Plains to pursue his own teaching degree in industrial arts.

The two were married in Brattleboro in 1970, and two years later they returned to Vermont. Trottier started his teaching career in Milton, where he coached junior high boys soccer and high school track and field. But both he and Patty wanted to be closer to their families in Brattleboro, so when the teaching position opened up at Hartford, Trottier jumped at the opportunity.

“He came down for an interview and honestly, the minute we walked through that door, he knew that’s where he wanted to be,” Patty said. “He got offered the job of industrial arts teacher with the agreement that he would coach, because they were looking for coaches.”

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After one year coaching track and field and junior varsity girls basketball, Trottier became the varsity girls hoops coach for the Hurricanes, who went 60-39 in his five seasons. In 1981, he pivoted to softball, spending 13 years in charge of that program and leading Hartford to its first-ever trip to the semifinals in 1992. He took on the additional post of assistant athletic director in 1989, and was promoted to athletic director in 1998, following the retirement of Bob Taylor.

Marty Brown, who coached girls basketball at Lebanon High in the late 1970s while Trottier was guiding the Hurricanes on the hardwood — the schools played each other frequently back then in the interstate Connecticut Valley League — credits Trottier for helping him build the Lebanon program when it was in its early stages. Brown later worked at Hartford for four years before becoming the longtime athletic director at Kearsarge High.

“Brian was a true ambassador for the community of Hartford. He understood that the name on the front of the uniform was what was most important,” Brown said. “He emphasized player development and fundamentals. He pursued winning, but not at the cost of his integrity or sportsmanship. His priorities were always so clear and perfect for the high school setting.”

The Trottiers’ two daughters were both multi-sport athletes at Hartford — Sara (now Sara Rice) graduated in 1996, and Abby (now Abby Spina) in 1999. Rice won a state title in field hockey as a junior and shared another the following year after the championship game ended in a tie, and she played for her father in softball for her first two years. Spina’s passion was soccer, and she was also one of the first members of the Hurricanes’ girls ice hockey program.

Myriem Sheldon, Trottier’s cousin who was raised in Hartford and later worked in the school district as an administrative assistant, assisted him as a volunteer coach for softball. The two were just a month apart in age and spent a lot of time together growing up.

“He realized that he needed a woman with him with these young ladies, for their protection and for his protection,” Sheldon said. “He was very forward-thinking in that. Most of them really liked him a lot and did talk to him if they had issues, but I was there in case some girls wouldn’t talk with a (man).”

Both of Trottier’s daughters have settled back in the Upper Valley as adults, and Rice, who played a year of collegiate field hockey at the University of Southern Maine, followed in her parents’ footsteps and is now a Spanish teacher at Hartford Memorial Middle School.

Even though she had no interest in the subject matter, Rice made sure to take Trottier’s highly popular industrial arts class in high school. Students would draft floor plans for houses and other buildings, as well as mold small structures with wood and metal.

“I feel like one of the reasons that I never really had a lot of classroom discipline issues teaching was because of all the advice he gave me and all the pre-emptive things he would say,” Rice said. “Even when I was in college learning to be a teacher, I went into it with all this knowledge from his advice. And he was right.”

Trottier’s skills with woodworking extended well beyond his classroom. He helped build the press box at the Hartford football and lacrosse field as well as the adjacent concession stand and ticket booth and also constructed the trophy cases that sit just outside the gym.

The contents of those trophy cases grew considerably in Trottier’s years as athletic director. The Hurricanes won four state titles in field hockey and three in boys ice hockey with Trottier leading the athletic department, and he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Vermont Principals Association in 2000. Even more meaningful to Trottier were the two awards Hartford won for sportsmanship during his tenure as AD and the lights that were erected at the football and lacrosse field.

“He found his niche. He loved every minute of it,” Patty said. “Brian’s blood ran blue. He loved Hartford from the day he stepped through that door, and his biggest thing was to give back to the students.”

Bob Hingston, the longtime former athletic director at Windsor High, became a close friend of Trottier’s through various VPA committees — for a time, they were the only two men on the field hockey committee — and numerous matchups between the schools. Hingston said Trottier even helped him build some storage cabinets at Windsor one summer.

“Brian was organized (and) he was in it for the right reasons,” Hingston said. “We used to joke that you never wanted to call Brian about rescheduling a game because he would get locked in and he liked to have things just so. But he’d always do it. He would make the change.”

Trottier’s officiating career, which included basketball, baseball and softball games all over the Upper Valley and southern Vermont, was highlighted by two trips to the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gym for VPA Division I boys basketball finals. His longtime partner as a basketball referee, Bob Potter, taught history at Hartford, and Patty said the two of them worked together “like a fine machine.”

“We would go by a coach and say, ‘Coach, your player out there is getting a little bit fiery, and I think you might want to take him out because he’s going to cost you a technical,’ ” Potter said. “We were such a strong team that either one of us could go to the sideline and say something to a coach and they would honor that, and honor us. That saved teams from getting technicals.”

Trottier continued officiating after he retired from Hartford in 2006 and also ran the clock at Hurricane football games for 13 years until 2019, when the press box was dedicated in his honor. Jeff Moreno, Hartford’s current athletic director and a former three-sport athlete for the Hurricanes who graduated in 1994, said he learned a lot from Trottier about working in athletics administration.

“He was extremely organized. Even today, as I go around to the various storage spaces in the athletic department, I know where he’s been,” Moreno said. “I learned if you live your life as an athletic director, there’s going to come a time when you show up to a game cutting it a little close. And when everything is where it’s supposed to be, you don’t waste any time. You can set up really quickly. Take the time up front to set your system up, and it will pay dividends down the road.”

Outside of sports and woodworking, Trottier enjoyed antiques, flea markets and auctions and kept up a pencil collection that he started as a Cub Scout in third grade. He and his family would help rake and mow their neighbors’ lawns, and after retirement, he worked for Blood’s Catering in White River Junction until the Parkinson’s disease began to limit his physical abilities.

It was undoubtedly in the sports scene at Hartford, though, where his impact will be felt for many years to come.

“Brian loved what sports did for him growing up in Brattleboro,” Patty said. “He wanted to help students of Hartford have that same opportunity. Brian always wanted to give back to Hartford because Hartford meant so much to him.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.