WXYZ-TV sports reporter Jeanna Trotman comes back home with retired NHL husband

Detroit Free Press

Judy Radzinski and her husband, Terry, loved the Kennedys, but Judy always had a special affinity for Jackie O. So when her daughter, Jeanna, was chosen to give the sixth-grade graduation speech at Graebner Elementary in Sterling Heights, Judy wasn’t going to miss her chance.

She bought her daughter a shiny, green dress for the occasion — scratchy, as Jeanna remembers it — reminiscent of the taffeta styles popularized by the former first lady.

When Jeanna (pronounced JEE-na) finished her speech, she made an announcement to her mother. She may have looked like Jackie O. at the time, but with her newfound talent for public speaking she was going to be Katie Couric, or at least the Katie Couric of sports.

In September, Jeanna got a lot closer to that childhood goal when she started her new job as a sports reporter and weekend sports anchor for WXYZ-TV, Detroit’s ABC affiliate. She now goes by Jeanna Trotman after she married former NHL defenseman Zach Trotman in 2017.

Jeanna, 31, grew up in Sterling Heights but it’s been a long, hard road back to the Detroit area, where she and Zach have finally settled down after working demanding careers that required them to live in 14 different homes, eight alone since the pandemic begin. They were often apart for long stretches and once went six months during football season without being together.

“There were a couple months where we just never felt settled,” Zach said, “and just kind of anxious and stressed out about everything.”

That’s not the case now in the family’s new home in Berkley. During a recent visit, 11-month-old Luca crawled around the house, playing with the TV remote control under the watchful eye of Murphy, the family’s adorably patient but vigilant 105-pound German shepherd.

After all those years of being apart because of Zach’s NHL career and Jeanna’s climb up the TV-market ladder, the jolly chaos of a squawking child and a barking dog are more than welcomed part of daily life most young families take for granted.

“It gave us a different perspective,” Jeanna said, “of what it means to come home for dinner.”

Lake State lovebirds

Jeanna grew up loving sports. She came from an athletic family and she was tall at 5 feet 11. But basketball was out of the question: “I would dribble up to my ear.” Instead, volleyball was her strongest sport. She was a middle hitter at Utica Ford.

But she also loved storytelling — and speaking. She spoke at Ford’s baccalaureate and honors night. She wrote for the school paper and thought about her future.

“I always was a writer from as long as I can remember,” she said. “So the on-camera stuff for me was the biggest struggle and the thing I still don’t love the most at all.

“But storytelling, writing, is always what I wanted to do, and then I love sports. So for me, sports journalism was an easy choice.”

The harder choice was where she could pursue her athletic and academic interests. Even at 5-11, she was too short to be a middle hitter at the Division-I level. She considered Central Michigan, which has a strong broadcast program, but where she might only be a walk-on player.

She was recruited by several GLIAC schools, which participate in Division II, and found the best fit at Lake Superior State, which told her it planned to start a journalism program by her sophomore year. It never happened.

But something else did happen during Jeanna’s sophomore year. She attended a code-of-conduct meeting for athletes and noticed a strapping blond, 6-3, 203-pound freshman defenseman on the hockey team.

“And I’m like, ‘Ah, man, that kid’s cute. He’s probably from Saskatchewan,’ ” she said. “I looked up the roster and I told my roommate, ‘Oh, my God, he’s from Novi!’ Although he has the hockey accent, he’s from Novi.”

Zach was born in Carmel, Indiana, but his family moved to Novi when his father, Greg, was transferred by Chrysler. Zach didn’t play hockey for Novi High, but instead played for Victory Honda’s elite 16- and 18-under AAA teams.

They got to know each other casually. Zach gave Jeanna his phone number, but she was dating someone. In June 2010, Zach had completed his strong freshman season. Jeanna was back home in Sterling Heights for the summer, upstairs in her bedroom when Terry Radzinski was reading the newspaper and called up to his daughter.

“My dad’s like, ‘Jeanna, did you see the Free Press?’ ” she said. “I was like, ‘No, why?’ He said, ‘Someone from your school was drafted by the Bruins.’ And I’m not like, ‘Really? I know all the hockey guys. Who is it?’ ”

Boston selected Zach 210th overall — the final pick of the entire draft.

“And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God!’ ” Jeanna said. “So I bring my phone out. I had his number and I texted him: ‘Hey, this is like really random. I’m embarrassed to even be doing this. It’s Jeanna, I saved your number and I just wanted to say congratulations. I saw the newspaper, that’s so cool.’”

It’s a great source of amusement in the Trotman home these days.

“Somebody,” Zach said, “was waiting for a name in a newspaper.”

“You gave me your number!” Jeanna protested with a big laugh. “And I had a boyfriend at the time, so I ended up saving the number. I never texted it.”

Zach admitted he was thrilled to finally get a text from Jeanna.

“Yeah, I like tried to reach out to her before, but she stonewalled me,” he said. “So I was definitely excited when she talked to me. It did take longer for things to kind of kick off.”

Getting her feet wet

The following spring of 2011, Jeanna was a junior and two things happened that changed her life. She began dating Zach and she got an internship at WXYZ, where she learned from sports director Don Shane, Tom Leyden and Brad Galli.

“When I went to (Channel) 7, I instantly knew I wanted to do it,” she said of a career in broadcasting. “But back then I didn’t really have what it takes yet.”

Something that brought Jeanna and Zach together was their exceptional drive and focus to achieve their goals. Jeanna wanted to be Couric without a journalism program at her school. Zach wanted to be Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Pronger after being drafted as Mr. Irrelevant.

But it was that drive that pushed Jeanna forward. When she returned for her senior year, she made the athletic department and public-relations department a deal. If they bought her a video camera and Final Cut Pro, she would produce one video story each week for them.

She begged to go on air with the local radio station that broadcast Lakers hockey games. The closest she got to a microphone was setting up and breaking down the equipment in the radio booth. She took stats, helped write game stories and took pictures for the school website.

“I knew I just didn’t have what it took in comparison to going to a bigger school with a bigger program,” she said. “So I just got my feet wet in as many areas as I possibly could.”

For her degree in communications, Jeanna wrote her senior thesis on women in sports broadcasting. She interviewed Jennifer Hammond of Fox 2 Detroit, former Fox Sports Detroit reporter Shannon Hogan and former Pistons arena hostess and WXYZ traffic reporter Erin Nicole.

“I was very cognizant of not playing into the stereotype that existed for women in sports,” Jeanna said. “And I think that’s been a challenge from the beginning and it’s something I’ve gotten more comfortable with. But it’s definitely been an area of focus of my from the beginning.”

Jeanna enrolled in Boston University’s graduate school and earned a master’s degree in broadcast journalism with a specialization in sports reporting. It took her nine months — plus a lot of agonizing and the help of her agent, a makeover and two voice coaches — to land her first job as a weekend sports anchor in September 2014 at KAAL-TV in Rochester, Minnesota, then the country’s No. 152 TV market, according to Nielsen rankings.

During the 2014-15 season, Zach was also starting to make his mark and had his first extended stay in the NHL, playing 27 games with the Bruins. On April 2, 2015, the Bruins visited Detroit and Zach played his first NHL game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Trotmans and Radzinskis bought a suite and still couldn’t fit more than 45 friends and family. Jeanna sat with her 90-year-old grandmother, Dolly.

Zach played well, but with the score tied at 2 with 2:08 left, he did the unthinkable.

“I remember looking and seeing how he’s always lingered on the blue line from college,” Jeanna said. “And when you creeped way up I was like, ‘Whoaaa!’ ”

Zach, who had not scored an NHL goal yet, decided to step up into the play.

“In the back of your mind you’re kind of always hoping it happens,” he said. “I mean, I nearly blacked out. I took a shot, I broke a guy’s stick, it should have got blocked.”

Instead, the puck somehow slipped through the smallest hole and beat Wings goalie Petr Mrazek. Just like that, with all his friends and family watching, Zach’s first NHL goal was a winner at home against the team he grew up rooting for.

After the game, Zach was greeted by his personal cheering section. Jeanna had traveled home from Minnesota to see him, twisting her schedule like she would so many other times with their careers pulling them in separate directions.

“When you live your relationship like that, those smaller moments mean so much,” she said. “Those five, 10 minutes meeting after a game are worth it.”

I do … and I do

Three months after Zach’s goal, he and Jeanna were engaged. She was promoted to sports director and stayed in Minnesota for two years. In July 2017, she started a new job in Flint, where she became the sports director for the NBC and Fox affiliates in the No. 73 TV market.

The same month Jeanna started in Flint, she and Zach were married at St. Paul on the Lake Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. They had set the date two years earlier, knowing free agency could be complication.

The wedding was idyllic and it went off without a hitch at the church the Radzinskis used to drive past on the long way home along Lake St. Clair after going downtown. Zach was a free agent and gave his phone to a friend sitting in the pews during the ceremony. No rings, except the ones at the altar. Zach didn’t have a team, but he had his bride as they left the church.

Then it happened. As the bridal party piled into the shuttle bus to take pictures downtown, Zach’s phone rang. It was his agent. The Pittsburgh Penguins made an offer. For the second time that day, Zach said yes.

But there was one problem. Zach had to find a place immediately where he could have the contract faxed to him, sign it and fax it back. The bus found a Kinko’s store near downtown and the entire 18-person bridal party got off the bus and went in to watch Zach and Jeanna sign the contract as player and witness.

“It was just the best day,” Jeanna said.

A soaring career, a broken body

In May, Jeanna accepted an offer from WXYZ to come home to the place where her career really started, in the 15th-largest TV market.

But as Jeanna’s career dreams were soaring, Zach’s were ending. His body was breaking down. In the past three years, he has had two or three concussions, two sports-hernia surgeries, a knee surgery and a back injury twice.

“I mean, everything was falling apart,” he said, “and I kind of got to a point where I was practicing like maybe twice a week and I’d play games on the weekend. It would take me like four days before I could walk again.”

Zach always took pride in being extremely fit, even for an NHL player. In Boston, he arrived at training camp and broke Znedo Chara’s pull-up record. He tried one last time this summer to get his body back to “square one.” It wasn’t happening.

He decided to retire after 91 games in the NHL and took a job in medical-device sales. And now he could be home for dinner with his family.

As Luca played with a toy, Jeanna stood nearby and Zach leaned against the back a couch. He was 31 and happy at home, yet still too young for an athlete to stop chasing a lifelong dream.

“I miss everything,” he said as his voice began to quaver. “The road trips and …”

He stopped and tried to push back the tears.

“We’ve never really talked about it,” Jeanna said, filling the long silence. “The after stuff.”

Pro athletes often find something to dislike about their routine after several years. The travel, the grind, the politics, the cold tubs. Zach loved all of it.

But you can also love two things at once, and it’s clear Zach cherished his time in the NHL with his teammates as much as he cherishes the new calm and stability of his family life.

It was nearly dinner time at the Trotmans’ home, where they have lived for barely a month. Luca had been a good sport the whole time a nosy visitor decided to stop by and pester mom and dad. Murphy, occupied with a bully stick, lost interest long ago. It has taken a long time, but the Trotmans finally arrived where they always belonged.

Together at home.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

Articles You May Like

Red Wings’ Kubalik Production Is Here to Stay
Red Wings LIVE 11.25.22: Lucas Raymond and Filip Hronek
‘Will, commitment’ have been Red Wings’ calling cards early on
Quick Hits: The Keep Improving Edition
Red Wings showing ability to push back physically against opponents

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *