SUN Hockey Pool

Sutters' mother knows best

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

While the hockey world debates the merits and probability of yet another Sutter joining the Calgary Flames, the world's most decorated hockey mom admits its far from the most pressing issue on her mind these days.

Whether Flames GM Darryl hires younger brother Brent as his coach pales in comparison to the ever-present concerns she has as matriarch of a farming family.

"Their mother prays for rain," said 72-year-old Grace Sutter from the family's humble four-bedroom farmhouse in Viking, Alta., in which she raised seven boys.

"We had a couple inches of snow six weeks ago and a light shower Thursday, that's it. We're dried out this year, so it's going to be tough for Darryl to do his ranching because there's next to no feed for the animals, and by this time any other year, they're looking at almost starting to do the haying and put the feed up."

That's not to say she hasn't thought about the hiring.

"If (Brent coaches for Darryl), that's OK. If it doesn't happen ... fine, too. I'm just glad they have jobs because they've got all these farms."

Having built the family name through a ranchhand's work ethic that saw a record six of Grace's seven sons play 5,597 NHL games over more than a quarter century, it's certainly not out of the question Brent could add Flames coaching duties to a resume thicker than a cow's hide.

However, while mom keeps in close contact with all her sons, she insists she isn't privy to all their goings-on.

"I haven't got a clue," she laughed when asked if she thought Brent would end up working with Darryl.

"Whatever will be will be. We're fine with it no matter what happens. They'll handle it."

While New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello has the ability to nix the family reunion of sorts by denying Brent permission to work for a year, Grace points out his schedule is already jammed with ranch duties and the Red Deer Rebels to run.

That said, he has competent farmhands running the land while wife Connie runs the Centrium's pro shop and son Merrick helps at the rink on weekends despite attending Mount Royal College.

"I'm just happy Brent is back in Alberta because it's been hard on his family," said Grace, who lost her husband Louis in 2005.

"Not just the Rebels, but he has a big ranch, too (between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake.) I think he's got 400 cows there now. Brian, too, has about 350 cows and Darryl the same. Boy, we really do need that rain."

After spending a good chunk of her life watching her sons on satellite TV playing for 13 NHL teams, Grace says it's nice to have three of her boys working for the Flames. Duane was lured from Florida a year ago as director of player personnel, while Ron has been a longtime scout.

"They were in my yard last June, and Darryl motioned for Duane to go over and tell me in my garden that Darryl was going to be his boss," Grace said of the 1,400-acre homestead located 90 minutes southeast of Edmonton.

"I was OK with it. It's good because I can just clue in on Calgary, although I really wish they would televise more of their games here."

Although Brent was closest to the twins, Rich and Ron --"They're like triplets," laughed Grace -- she said all the boys got along well and are still close to this day.

"They're always in contact -- there isn't a day that goes by they don't talk to one another," said Grace, whose family will swell to 37 with the addition of her first great-grandchild this summer, courtesy of Darryl's daughter Jessie.

"I know because when they're in my house, their phones are always ringing and they're talking to one another."

Oh sure, there were plenty of shinny games on the slough or ball hockey games in the barn that ended with noses out of joint or even bloodied. But while boys will be boys, she's never had any reason to believe any one of them couldn't work with another as kids or adults.

"They might have some disagreements growing up, but that would be as far as it would go," said Grace, the toughest Sutter by virtue of having seven kids in nine years.

"They might do a lot of glaring and making faces or whatever, but I think they always made up."

Asked if she felt left in the dark on an impending hiring most of the hockey world believes will come to pass, she chuckled.

"Well, not necessarily," said Grace, who got a heads up from Brent the day before he resigned from New Jersey.

"We really don't talk that much about hockey when they come home, but it's always on our minds. Duane was home last week, and they all know more than what I do. Even Gary (the oldest brother, who quit hockey as a teen) has been saying since the Devils got beat out, 'Mom, he's not going back.' They clue in better than I do."

While Grace is used to the rampant speculation that has surrounded all of her sons at various times in their careers, she admits she heard something the other day that brought out the old Sutter edge.

"I didn't like a lady from Vancouver talking sports the other night saying 'Brent might be in Calgary' and the phrase she used was, 'Isn't that cozy?" said Grace.

"I thought, 'You stupid woman.' She probably doesn't know a puck from a baseball."

However you'd describe the potential relationship, it's one mom is sure can endure anything inside or outside hockey.

"The sun doesn't go down and I could not sleep if I thought there was a problem between any of them," Grace said. "It's a mother's priority to pray for her children."

And, apparently, rain.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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