A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The forgotten Sutter

Mike Morreale at NHL.com recently wrote two fine articles about the future of the Carolina Hurricanes. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of emphasis on the Canes 2007 first round Pick Brandon Sutter.

Hurricanes hope help is coming from kids
Next generation Sutter aims for NHL

In this second generation of Sutters, Brandon was the third to be drafted into the NHL, but he will be the first to play in the NHL. Barring a really unfortunate series of catastrophic events, he'll be lacing them up in Raleigh this fall and hopefully for a long time to come. For the record, the other two second generation Sutters are:
  • Shaun (son of Brian), who was a fourth round pick by the Flames in 1998 and is now playing for the Belfast Giants of the British Elite Ice Hockey League.
  • Brett (son of Darryl), who was a sixth round selection by the Flames in 2005, and is playing with the AHL's Quad City Flames.

There's no need to link to the credentials of each of the first generation Sutters. Only to point out that they played a collective 4994 games, scored a collective 2934 (1320/1614) points and spent 7224 minutes in the box. That's five days to you and me. Between them, they won six Stanley Cups.

We all know their names as Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich, Brent, Ron, and Gary.

Wait. That's seven. There's only supposed to be six. Gary??? Who is this Gary character?

He's the oldest of the Sutter brothers, and rumored to have been the most gifted of them all, but he never played in the NHL, or really any level of major organized hockey. He turned down an invitation to a tryout with the Red Deer Rustlers, at which Brian earned a spot. One by one, the brothers worked their way through junior hockey and into the NHL, and Gary had few regrets. He certainly never resented his brothers' success. Although Gary denies it, all of his brothers say that the reason he turned down the tryout was that he was very serious with a girl who he would later marry. And divorce. He says that he felt like he wasn't good enough. Everyone else begged to differ, but that's what he says.

I found a fantastic article about Gary Sutter, which appeared in the 2005 issue of The Crow, which is the University of Regina School of Journalism's yearly publication. I highly recommend the story, written by Dan Kinvig, starting on page 14. (this is a pdf file)

The article tells the story behind the story, but also points out that the story doesn't end when Gary found himself remarried, working in a lumber yard and living in a mobile home. Like so many other blue collar workers across the world, Gary entered a lottery ticket pool at work with a bunch of the guys. They won a $10M jackpot, and Gary's cut was $1.5M.

Unlike many people who find themselves in the same spot, Gary didn't quit his job the next day. He continued to work there, despite his newfound riches. That's the "Sutter work ethic". Gary knows, as the other six brothers know, as the Staal brothers know, the value of hard work. The Sutter brothers grew up in a 800-square foot, two bedroom farmhouse in Viking, Alberta. They had no choice but to work on the farm from a very early age. Their father, who passed away in 2005, instilled in them a strong work ethic, which helped six of them have terrific careers as NHLers. We'll never know how good an NHLer Gary would have been.

Young Brandon never had to get up at four in the morning to drive a tractor. He never had to bail hay until the sun went down. He never had to live in a cramped room with three brothers. No, his life has been much easier in that respect. However, the apple rarely falls far from the tree, and in this case he's falling from the (second) best tree in the lot. By anyone's account, Brandon's dad Brent was the best of the six, but maybe not as good as Gary.

So far as we know, there isn't a fifth Staal brother.


Anonymous said...

Hats off, dlee. A terrific post. Great info, great writing.

The Acid Queen said...

I second that.


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