Barry Trotz and Alain Vigneault are paid to win hockey games, not speak eloquently about societal issues or mold young men, the way college coaches are expected to do.
So one had to feel a little bad for Vigneault, the Flyers coach, on Saturday as he defended himself over charges he seemed out-of-touch and/or indifferent to the issues that led the NHL playoffs to pause for two days.
More on that later. But Vigneault’s struggle served to illustrate by contrast how good Trotz is at this sort of thing.
The Islanders coach has a fine on-ice record with the Predators, Capitals and Islanders, but he also is widely known around the league as a mensch who can see the big picture.
That never was more evident than over the course of news conferences on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, after the playoffs were paused in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Trotz seemed to be tearing up as he discussed what comes next.
“You’ve got a voice; you’ve got some momentum for the brotherhood,” he said. “It is the next step to have some solutions.
“If you have to change some laws, get that done. If it’s getting schools, the next generation, to understand love and understanding, let’s get that done. That’s the next step for me.”
He also spoke of playing “almost like a parent role” in supporting his players and their causes, such as Trotz’s commitment to people with special needs such as his son, Nolan.
“Listening is a skill, and this is a good time for everybody to listen,” he said, “because there is stuff in this world that everybody pretends they understand, but we don’t understand.”
He was back behind the microphone before Game 3 of the second-round playoff series between the Islanders and Flyers, with more long and thoughtful answers about coaching under these circumstances, including giving players space during an uncomfortable, unconventional week.
“Every generation has had their moments, from the world wars to depressions to all those things, and some of them still apply,” he said. “One of them is inequality.
“The next generation, our generation, are going to be tested for sure, and we have to make the most of it, make sure we’re helping our children get to a place where they’re in a better place than where we are right now.”
That sort of eloquence from a coach is difficult to match, more so, as Vigneault noted, when English is not your first language.
But still, Vigneault — a sharp and personable presence in five seasons with the Rangers in the mid-2010s — has to be better than what he showed on Thursday.
He seemed to be the last person in North America to have heard about the shooting and what was going on with other leagues’ reactions to it, blaming it on being “a hockey nerd” focused only on his job.
After taking severe criticism for it, he skipped his Friday news conference, then read from prepared remarks on Saturday before declining to take questions.
“In life, I answer to my parents, I answer to my family, I answer to my friends and I answer to God,” Vigneault said before offering a timeline from Wednesday and Thursday to explain his cluelessness.
“I am guilty of not checking up on what was going on in the world and the NBA. But I am a good person. I believe in equality. I believe in social justice. I want to be part of the solution. I want to help society in any way I can.
“To all of the people that have texted me and called me in the last 48 hours to show their support, I want to say thank you and continue to stay safe. To all of the people in the last 48 hours that have questioned my honesty, and questioned my integrity, questioned my social commitment, I want to say, you also stay safe.
“You know, we all have our part to do moving forward to help society fix these issues. Maybe we can all start by being good to one another. Society is like a big team; everyone has a role to play. If we work together and do our roles, I am convinced that we can fix society’s issues.”