January 4, 2007
Tougher than being there
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
The previous two years, Brent Sutter stood behind the Team Canada bench trying to look cool, calm and collected.
Yesterday he stood in the lobby of a hotel in Everett, Washington, bouncing off the walls.
The previous two years Sutter led Canada to back-to-back gold medals at the World Junior. Yesterday he was up at 7 a.m. trying to follow Canada against the U.S. in the semifinal.
"You can't get TSN on the Internet when you are out of the country. I couldn't watch the game," he said.
"But the summary kept coming up. So that's how I followed it."
That was OK when it was 1-0 U.S. and 1-1 heading to overtime. But when the Americans were outshooting Canada 12-2 in a 10-minute OT and a shootout was looming large, it can drive you completely crazy.
"I went downstairs to the lobby," said the coach of the Red Deer Rebels.
THE MORNING SKATE
"Our bus was going to the morning skate as soon as the game was over. There are a couple of parents on the trip and they'd phoned home and were relaying us a shot-by-shot account of the shootout."
While this year's World Junior has barely registered on the Richter scale compared to last year's in G.M. Place in Vancouver, it was suddenly the focus of a nation.
Carey Price entered the Canadian consciousness as he miraculously kept the net empty in overtime, particularly during two minutes of a 4-on-3 power play.
It was compelling stuff as the two teams went seven rounds in the shootout before Jonathan Toews scored for the third time, and Peter Mueller missed for the first time after scoring on his first two tries.
Sutter stood in the lobby in Everett, Washington, going through a personal hell.
"I was nervous. So nervous. I really want this team to do well," he said.
Sutter had no idea they'd changed the shootout rule to the NHL's three shooters and then going goofy if it remained tied by allowing anybody to shoot again and again in the shootout.
"I didn't know that," he said. "That doesn't make any sense."
It made Toews a hero.
"I'd seen all the other games," said Sutter, who had his team on the other side of the border until last night's game in Everett.
"I've got to go through this again Friday," he said of the gold medal game against Russia. "We're in Portland."
After doing such a brilliant job to provide Canada with back-to-back golds after seven years without, there was a Draft-Sutter-As-Permanent-Coach for the World Juniors campaign.
A lesser man might have secretly been thinking if they lost this one it would make him and his decision not to go for three-in-a-row look pretty good.
"I'm a big believer in the program," said Sutter. "I'm a massive fan of this team.
"I think they did a great job putting together this team with 12 players who were there last year. They put together a great coaching staff."
NOT FAIR TO PLAYERS
Until yesterday, it was OK being Brent Sutter.
"It hadn't bothered me at all. It was a decision I had to make for our team in Red Deer. It was not fair to my own players and the organization to take that on three years in a row.
"We didn't make the playoffs last year. We have a tough division this year.
"I'd love to do it again. But I don't regret not having done it this year."
It was only a few minutes after Canada had won the game, and Sutter was sitting on the bus on his way to the morning skate doing this interview on his cellphone.
"This isn't an easy thing to win," he said. "It amazes me Canada once managed to win it five years in a row. It's just as amazing we didn't win it seven years in a row.
"I'm sure that was an exciting win for the whole country. And I'm sure it was nerve-racking for everybody involved."
It certainly was for Brent Sutter standing in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Everett, Washington, while parents of players were telling him who was shooting next and whether they scored or not.
It would have been easier behind the bench.