TROTTIER'S LONG ISLAND FAMILY PORTRAIT
By Chris Botta
Warren and Pat Amendola of Huntington have four sons. The oldest is named Warren Jr., but they call him Ren or Renny. The youngest's name is Rick and just a couple of years older than him is Russ. And then there's their other son. He goes by the name of Bryan Trottier.
In a land not far from the Nassau Coliseum but in a time long ago from the days of rookies having their salaries capped at over a mill a year, a future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame lived with a local family during his first NHL season. Bryan Trottier, the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1975-76, boarded at the home of the Amendolas, then of Lloyd Harbor.
"They are my second family," Trottier said. "They're such special people, my own family is not insulted when they hear me say that. When I think of the people responsible for helping my career get off to such a good start on Long Island, I think of my coaches, my teammates, and the Amendolas."
It's hard to imagine Rick DiPietro or Sean Bergenheim bunking with a Long Island family for their first full NHL seasons, but it certainly worked for Trottier. Although he was just 20 years old at the time, the kid from Val Marie, Saskatchewan was wise enough to know he wasn't ready to tackle the real world alone. So on the first day of practice after making the big club, he told everyone in earshot that he was looking for a family to take him in.
Warren Amendola was at practice in Farmingdale that day. At the time he owned Koho, the hockey equipment manufacturer. Warren and his wife already had three children of their own and had never been billets before, like families across Canada are for junior hockey league players. "But we had the room," said Pat Amendola, "so we figured, why not"?
Immediately, Bryan fit in with the rest of the boys. Raised with impeccable manners by his mom and dad, the Islanders' rookie lived with the rules of the household and never took what the Amendolas were doing for him for granted. Trottier gained their trust and affection so quickly, they wanted Bryan to know their home was his home. Mondays became "Open House Night," meaning Bryan could bring over as many friends as he wanted. Gerry Hart came. So did Clark Gillies. Denis Potvin. J.P. Parise. Sometimes they all came to dinner on the same night.
"Those nights were a lot of fun," said Warren.
"The only thing better than Monday nights at the Amendolas," said Bryan, "was Friday nights with the Amendolas at their favorite Italian restaurant."
If you were Rick Amendola, the youngest, it was pretty cool to have the Islanders' star rookie as a big brother. Every so often, Trotts would go to Cold Spring Harbor High School with Rick. "If you think Bryan was a good ice hockey player," Rick said, "you should have seen him play rod hockey. You know Bryan he played to win. But my favorite memory was the day he left Islanders practice to come to school and help my friends and me build the senior float."
Having a family to go home to was everything to Trottier, whose preference for quiet nights has been a legendary part of his greatness for three decades as a player and coach. When you consider the brilliance of his rookie season the stunningly successful jump from Swift Current to New York and the NHL remember this: Bryan Trottier was not a first overall pick, a projected franchise player. In 1974, he was drafted in the second round. The only player taken in the 21 picks before him to come close to matching his accomplishments was the Islanders' first round pick, his future linemate and fellow Hall of Famer, Clark Gillies.
When Gillies had his number retired, he asked his best friend from the Islanders, Billy Harris, to cut the ribbon to raise his banner to the rafters. Clark cited Harry-O as the man who made him feel at home on Long Island in his rookie year. Trottier's choice was equally easy and for the same reasons. On Bryan Trottier Day, Oct. 20, 2001, Warren and Pat Amendola did the honors.
"I wanted them there for everything they did for me," said Trottier, who still checks in with his second family at least once a week. "They were the first people to take me under their wings. But really, everyone I met on Long Island did. I tell people all the time that I was born in Saskatchewan, but grew up on Long Island."
Trottier's second mom, Pat Amendola, said it best: "Bryan was like a member of the family. No wait, he still is a member of our family."