SUN Hockey Pool

Family comes first to Sutter

STEVE MACFARLANE, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

Martin Brodeur suggests his former coach Brent Sutter probably pinned his credit card or a lump of cash to the bulletin board in the Calgary Flames locker-room before playing his former New Jersey Devils.

Incentive.

As if this game is somehow more important to Sutter than the other 81 on the season.

“I won’t say how much,” Sutter said Friday before the puck dropped.

It was a joke that drew a chuckle, but the Flames bench boss was just appeasing a crowd that hung on every word spoken about the team he left behind nearly nine months ago after two seasons at the helm and with another year on his contract.

The result didn’t mean any more to Sutter than any other — every game is equally important to him. His pride makes it tough to lose.

But even a member of hockey’s first family knows family comes first in life. To make that happen, sometimes pride has to be swallowed.

That’s why Sutter so easily pushed aside all the innuendo, negativity and skepticism suggesting he ditched the Devils in favour of the Flames.

All that matters is what his family thinks, and that they can tell him in person. That he can celebrate his daughter Brooke’s birthday — she turned 18 Friday. That he gets to watch her play volleyball and soccer. That he’s around when son Merrick, a college student in Calgary, needs to talk.

Those are the things that really matter.

Those are things the kids appreciate.

“They don’t have to say it in words,” Sutter said. “They say it just in the way they are, being around them, and asking me if I’ll be able to come to certain things.

“I’ll be able to make certain events and stuff that I wasn’t able to do for two years.

“You know they’re thankful that you’re there, and you’re a dad. Being a dad is more important to me than any hockey game, or anything in hockey.

“That’s the way it is.”

Sometimes, the game that inspires passion in its fans can create confusion in its loyal followers.

Bitterness still exists in New Jersey despite the fact the Devils haven’t missed a beat with Jacques Lemaire taking Sutter’s place. The fact Sutter found himself in Calgary with an NHL job, courtesy of his brother Darryl, the team’s GM, only made the best of both worlds possible.

“I had to do what was right, that I felt was right for myself and, more importantly, a lot bigger than the game are others around you that are being affected by it,” said Sutter, who had to deal with his mother Grace’s battle with breast cancer from afar.

She’s healthy and done with treatment, and gets to see her son more frequently now.

“This is, ultimately, where my life is. That part of it’s been outstanding. It’s been great,” Sutter said.

Still, his life could be better. It’s the on-ice part of it keeping the tale from being completely happy.

“Obviously, you wish the hockey side of it was better, but that’s something you continue to move forward on and continue to work on and continue to get it where it needs to be,” Sutter said.

“We do want to see things differently in the win-loss column.”


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