If he’s ever looking for some hockey coaching tips, Trent Carroll knows he can turn to the professionals in the organization he helps run.
Carroll’s son Jett plays on the squad of 13- and 14-year-olds, some of whom have been coached by Carroll since they were aged five.
“If you’re going to live in a community, you’ve got to be part of the community – that’s the way I look at it, and that’s what I grew up with,” Carroll told the Now-Leader.
“Sports and coaching gives me an opportunity to do that, and it’s just something I’m passionate about. I mean, it sounds good that you’re giving back or whatever, but this is as much for me as it is for the kids.”
Carroll was named the Canucks’ business boss back in November, eight-plus years after first joining the organization as VP of sales and service. Before that, he was in the beer business for close to two decades, most recently as VP of sales with InBev/Labatt.
At Rogers Arena, naturally, he rubs shoulders with some very smart hockey men who have been known to offer the chief executive some coaching advice.
“Oh yeah, guys like Travis (Green, head coach of the Canucks), I do ask him,” Carroll said with a laugh. “I say things like, ‘You know, we’re not getting the puck in and we don’t want to turn it over in deep, what can we do?’ And he gives his advice – you know, ‘Tell them not to dump it in,’ things like that. But that’s how guys like that are wired, always coaching, always trying to make players better. That’s the kind of stuff hockey guys want to talk about all the time.”
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Carroll grew up in the Manitoba town of Brandon, an area that boasts a rich hockey history as home to the WHL Wheat Kings.
“I played minor hockey, some junior, too, but not with the Wheat Kings,” Carroll said. “I was one of those slow defensemen who waterskied behind most guys, right, and really no talent. I didn’t have any of that, so pretty quickly I figured I should go to school.”
While in the beer biz, Carroll and his wife Jill moved from Metro Vancouver to Toronto and back. Both Jett and his sister Ashlee, 15, a student-athlete at Earl Marriott Secondary, were born at Peace Arch Hospital.
“We lived in Surrey before, back then, and we wanted to make it our home permanently this time,” explained Carroll, an Ocean Park resident. “It’s where we decided we wanted to raise the kids.
“I grew up on a farm,” he expanded, “so I was always thinking about living in a community where the kids could connect, where you go to the mall, the grocery store, and you run into people you know. And the other thing is, if your kid’s out doing something, there’s someone else watching them, not just you. It’s that village thing, and I love that.”
The Now-Leader first caught up with Carroll during the recent Nite of Champions, an annual benefit event for the local chapter of KidSport, an organization that helps families pay to register children to play organized sports.
“Listening to Ron Mullin (a longtime Semi coach given the Greg Long KidSport Community Champion Award that night) and Travis (Green), you think back to the impact your coaches had on you growing up, and you really want to leave important things with them, young players,” Carroll said that night, Jan. 22, at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club.
“It’s not just about how to be better hockey players, it’s how to think about things in life, too, and how they can do things to be better as they move forward in life,” he continued. “It’s no different than managing people, because I work with a lot of young people and you try to help them be their best. With any team sport, it’s about commitment, drive, being a team and how it’s even more important than individual performance or skills.”
Carroll coaches baseball in the spring and summer months.
“I did soccer, too, and I know nothing about soccer,” he recalled with a laugh. “That was me running some drills and had the girls running around, just doing my best.”
With his son’s minor hockey team heading to playoffs soon, Carroll continues to explore the many parallels between community sports and the pro ranks.
“When you’re with the Canucks it’s a funny thing, because you talk to the Travis Greens and Trevor Lindens, Kirk McLeans, and they all reached a high level, but they all talk about the same things they learned for life lessons are the same things everybody else learns in sports,” he related.
“These guys probably pinch themselves working, and getting to work for a hockey team, the Canucks, it’s incredible,” Carroll added. “Like, I’m just a kid from Brandon, right. One of my best buddies, Dean Evason, who played for probably 15 years (in the NHL) and now coaches with Minnesota (Wild), we’d phone each other, because there was no texting back then. We’d get to places and say, ‘Just a kid from Brandon here, you’ll never guess where I am!’ And I still do that sometimes here – ‘Just a kid from Brandon here, you’ll never guess where I am!’ You know, it’s amazing, and part of it is being at the right place at the right time, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of hard work, too.”