When Derek Jeter launched The Players’ Tribune site as a post-retirement project a little over a year ago as an outlet for first-person stories written by athletes, there was some skepticism over the quality of work and versions of the truth it might inspire.
But while the site has been a little hit-or-miss, the range of voices has been refreshing. Having athletes write in their own words is in no way a replacement for diligent coverage by the media, but it has proved in many cases to be a great supplement.
The latest and perhaps greatest example came this week in the form of an essay written by Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier, formerly of the Islanders and later the Penguins.
Outside of old Norris Division rivals — particularly those who played for Chicago — Trottier might inspire the most amount of disdain among hardened North Stars fans of yore.
Trottier was skilled, sure, but he had the ability to get under a player’s skin. He was a catalyst on the 1981 Islanders squad that defeated the North Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. Late in his career, he shifted to Pittsburgh. Sure enough, he was a veteran presence for the Penguins squad that defeated Minnesota in the 1991 Cup Final.
In that series, he and teammate Kevin Stevens were mic’ed up and were heard using some awful language and slurs while taunting Brian Bellows. Trottier’s verbal barrage is now stuff of YouTube legend, with more than 500,000 views on only one version of the video.
In Trottier’s essay, titled “Letter to My Younger Self,” he addresses the incident head-on.
“By the late-2000s, this clip will have circulated quite a bit,” Trottier writes. “You’ll go into an elementary school in Minnesota to talk to the kids, and a third-grader will yell out, in his little voice … ‘Hey Bellows! You’re a superstar, Bellows!’ And you’ll shoot the teacher a nervous glance, praying this kid doesn’t finish your now-semi-famous rant.”
Most of the essay, it should be noted, is a beautiful reflection on Trottier’s youth development growing up in Saskatchewan and great stories of coming up through the ranks of junior hockey.
But the reflection of regret over the Bellows incident is as 2015 as you can get: A guy who grew up on a farm in Canada with one TV channel writing a first-person essay on an athlete-run website in which he talks about a 25-year-old incident that has since gone viral on YouTube.