I touched the line between fan and athlete when I was reacquainted with a hockey legend Wednesday night.
I have to admit there was a flurry of butterflies in my stomach when I was conducting an interview after the New York Rangers visited the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I came face to face with my namesake, Bryan Trottier, head coach of the Rangers, and former all-star for the New York Islanders.
For all the times people told me how my name was spelled strange with a “Y” rather than “I”, I explain to them my name is not strange, but legendary.
Trottier, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997, ranks 12th on the all-time scoring list. He became a New York sports icon by leading the Isles to four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980 to 1983.
In 1980, my father, mother and grandparents were Islanders fans, with Trottier as their favorite player. When it came time to name the Fazios’ first child, it was a natural choice to have one of the greatest two-way hockey players of all time as the one you would call your son.
In 1981 my mother was an employee of National Five and Ten, a store located next to Syosset Sports, where most of the hockey players went for equipment.
“I knew him from working in the store,” my mom said. “He was a nice guy and a very quiet person. So we named you after him.”
More than 20 years later when I was face to face with Trottier, for some reason I could not think of all the questions I had for him, and had trouble conducting an interview. At 5-feet, 11 inches he is not an overly imposing guy, but to be an athlete of his caliber, everything you do is conducted with confidence and power, even your thought process.
With his gaudy statistics, he still remains a humble man, expressing gratitude over my parents’ naming decision.
“It is a wonderful compliment,” Trottier said. “It really is.”
Even after a 3-0 loss Wednesday, where disappointment was evident on his face, he still reached out and treated me like we were on the same page, being patient through my stuttering, and making the encounter more comfortable for me.
Trottier proves that no matter what the status of the athlete is, they are as human as the next person is.
It is people like me, who is both a fan and member of the press, that change the perception toward them.
“I don’t look at myself as a celebrity,” Trottier said. “I am a regular guy. I am a dad. I have a job. I am in the entertainment business.”
These people in the entertainment business are constantly idolized by millions of people because they are performing feats most of us are not capable of doing.
Through the age of television, we get to see their times of joy and frustration as they chase the ultimate prize in their profession as well as fighting to keep their jobs.
We fall for these people, and they think of fans as part of their everyday job. Some fans treat them as if they are anyone else they would encounter, and some few treating fans as if they are another stress of the job.
Believe it or not, the athletes that treat fans rudely are not the majority; those, like the bad times that people have, are the ones that stick out in most people’s minds.
“I treat everybody the same,” Trottier said. “If someone is immediately rude or otherwise, I try to keep a pretty straightforward demeanor.”
From 20 years ago the fan-athlete relationship still remains the same.
“I think the fans are pretty excited, and I think the players realize the involvement and excitement of the fans,” Trottier said.
From my experience, meeting someone whose name I have to live up to was an experience filled with excitement.
Even though he is just doing his job, Trottier is still a person who will cause butterflies in my stomach. Shaking his hand, saying goodbye left me satisfied and still nervous from the encounter.
I met my legendary namesake and decided that fans and athletes are one and the same, but they deserve the attention for having people idolize and follow them.
And, oh yeah, name their children after them.