January 11, 2012
Sutter brothers try mending fences
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Those who expected the Sutter boys to hug it out or apologize to one another obviously never saw them play.
But in the quiet confines of their respective homes — far from the cameras and the microphones — Darryl and Brent Sutter did the next closest thing: They finally talked.
After more than a year of silence prompted by anger, frustration and personality clashes that dotted their working relationship as GM and head coach, respectively, while with the Calgary Flames, the two spoke Sunday night.
They didn’t discuss their differences, nor bury the hatchet, nor agree to disagree or dissect old wounds …
They just talked.
And for a pair of proud, stubborn farmers, whose only contact came at their family golf tournament in Red Deer last summer when they exchanged hellos while passing one another, a simple phone call was the first and biggest step towards a healing process some thought might never begin.
“We had a good chit-chat — it was good,” said Brent, whose brother initiated the call.
“We talked about their team, about our team … never once did we talk about anything personally. We talked about the kids. We were all over the map with it. That was the first time I talked to him. It was nice.”
Exactly when they last spoke previously is uncertain, as the two weren’t exactly on speaking terms for a time leading up to Darryl’s ouster as Flames GM Dec. 28, 2010. Retreating to the family homestead in Viking, Alta., Darryl disappeared from the hockey world and has yet to comment publicly on his time in Calgary or his requested resignation from the franchise he helped rebuild.
Hired by the Los Angeles Kings last month as head coach, Darryl has since gone on record admitting he had trouble adjusting to the move from coach to GM, which is the crux of what led to the tension between him and his younger brother, whom he hired in the summer of 2009.
On Saturday, Darryl returns to Calgary with the Kings for the first time since making his way back into the NHL coaching ranks. It likely spurred on his decision to reach out to Brent.
“You have to move on,” said Brent before Tuesday’s game against his former employer, the New Jersey Devils.
“Through good and bad, everything you go through is an experience. I learned a lot in New Jersey, and with Darryl here, I also learned a lot. I think there was a lot made out of some things that were said — and not all of it was true either. Perhaps some was. Darryl and I aren’t ones who are going to talk to the media about it. That’s personal. Certain things go on in an organization that you don’t talk about. And that’s no different in a family. It’s personal.”
With seven brothers growing up in a tiny farmhouse, it’s certainly not the first time two of the lads have had their differences. Nor will it be the last.
But given how close the Sutter clan generally is and how curious it is to see a GM and coach who don’t talk — let alone brothers — their ongoing silence was legitimate news speaking to the dysfunction of the Flames organization before Darryl was let go.
“We’ve now had communication since then, and it has been good,” said Brent, who insists he has no idea what transpired management-wise leading up to Darryl’s departure.
“Any way you want to look at it, we’re still brothers. I care deeply about what happens with him and how he does.”
Pointing out how small the coaching community is, Brent said he wants Darryl to continue turning the Kings around as he has so far. Just not on Saturday night.
“I was happy to see him get back into coaching in the NHL, because I think he’s a good coach. But at the end of the day, I’m the head coach of the Flames and he’s the head coach of the Kings. We’re in the same conference, and we’re going to see each other four times before the end of the year. We both love to win, and we’re both competitive, and we both want to see our organizations do well.”
For those wondering, Saturday’s clash at the Dome will be anything but awkward for the two.
“Competing against one another is not something that’s really that big a deal, because we’ve done it our whole lives,” Brent said.
“We did it as kids, and as we grew up and played, we wanted to beat the crap out of each other when our teams played. I haven’t coached against a brother yet, but it’s no different. It’s got nothing to do with Darryl or I. As a matter of fact, until the media brings it up, I don’t even think about it.”
Or at least until the phone rang, that is.
On Twitter: @ericfrancis