NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With …” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Trevor Daley, who announced his retirement as an NHL defenseman and joined the Pittsburgh Penguins as hockey operations adviser Oct. 26. He scored 309 points (89 goals, 220 assists) in 1,058 games with the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Penguins and Detroit Red Wings over 16 seasons (2003-20). Daley won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
Trevor Daley said he’s always been a people person. So when he had the chance to join the Pittsburgh Penguins as hockey operations adviser, he knew it was the perfect fit.
“The management side, the player development side, helping guys, I just enjoy people, period, working with people and seeing people get better and helping people get better,” Daley said. “Did I see it coming? I can’t say how it was going to come or what it looked like, if it looked like this opportunity. But this opportunity is pretty good.”
The 37-year-old will be based in Pittsburgh and report directly to general manager Jim Rutherford. Daley will assist the coaching staff from press level during games and help with player evaluations at the NHL and American Hockey League levels.
“I get to work with a Hall of Famer who’s had a track record of a ton of success in what he’s been doing,” Daley said of Rutherford, who won the Stanley Cup as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 before doing the same with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017. “That was part of jumping on this opportunity was getting a chance to work with this organization and these people. For me not to take advantage of this at this time, I’d be crazy not to.”
Here are Five Questions with … Trevor Daley:
When did Jim Rutherford start talking with you about joining hockey operations for the Penguins?
“Jim reached out a while ago through my agent. I knew there was an opportunity when I was done playing, that I had some interest in going back to Pittsburgh and doing something. Through the last three or four months I’ve been acting like I was going to play and thinking that way. With free agency coming up and COVID, different things got me thinking more of long-term stuff. My kids are getting a little bit older, so it was more so to listen to what Jim had to say and what the job required and what it looked like and different things. Once I had a chat with Jim, it didn’t take me very long to say yes. My family was obviously real excited about it, coming back to Pittsburgh. They made some good friends and had some good years here. It felt good, it felt right, and we’re all pretty excited for it.”
Was it difficult to finally say, ‘OK, I’m done playing’?
“I think being off for so long, the only thing that threw me for a loop was that I didn’t have to wake up the next morning and go work out [laughs]. It actually felt pretty good. A lot of those commitments, you know, that you had, they just went out the door within seconds. It was a good feeling, I’m not going to lie to you. I was a little relieved that, finally, I made a decision and finally I could have something to look forward to, so I was pretty excited. Obviously, once things get going and back to normal here, I’m probably going to miss it a little bit. But I’m excited for the new adventure and what it entails and what it’s going to bring, all the learning. It’s kind of like you’re a rookie again, starting from scratch.”
How much have you been able to do on the job thus far?
“I kind of came in at the time when it slowed down after the (2020 NHL) Draft and after free agency. Those were the exciting times for this side of the business, with the new guys coming in and figuring out how to build your team in the offseason, that kind of thing. That time has passed a little bit, but most of [this time] is kind of giving me the ability to look at everything, oversee what Jim does, work a lot with Patrik [Allvin], who’s the new assistant general manager, who’s doing a great job. Obviously, he has a really good background with where he’s been in the scouting department for a real long time.
“It’s just working with everybody, talking to [coach Mike Sullivan] and kind of finding my way. When I’m asked questions or advice, it’s coming from a player’s viewpoint. That’s obviously going to be my strength for right now, because I don’t know much about the management side of it. I’m learning that. But at the end of the day it’s hockey out there. How that looks, it basically all looks the same. But that’s kind of where I think my value’s going to come in for right now is, what is the player thinking? What’s coming from that side? I’m excited about all of it. So far, the meetings, everything is virtual, and they’ve been great.”
I know you were injured when the Penguins won the Cup in 2016 (broken ankle in the Eastern Conference Final), but what was it like to hoist the Cup that year, and then again in 2017?
“It was better being on the ice playing, that’s for sure. It was amazing. At that point (in 2016) you’re just so happy for the guys. You don’t even think that you helped them do it, you’re just trying to congratulate everybody, you’re so excited for everybody who was playing. Then to get that feeling the very next year, I remember sitting in Nashville on the bench like for three seconds thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is what it feels like.’ The feelings are different, for sure, but it’s just the most satisfying feeling you could ever have playing this sport is winning with your teammates and celebrating. It’s something I’ll cherish and never forget.”
Have you had a chance to look back at your career, at everything you accomplished?
“Honestly, I’m just so happy I got to play hockey. The accolades are whatever comes with it, but just being a hockey player has made me who I am today and [given me] the family I have today. That’s the main thing and only thing I really look at is that part of it. The relationships you have along the way, you get to cherish them and those last forever, which is great. They never leave. I’m so grateful, honestly, for the opportunity I’m getting and I’m so grateful that I got to play this game. I’m just going to continue on respecting it and seeing where it goes.”