Sutter duel not 'that big of a deal'
STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
|Flames head coach Brent Sutter reacts as one of his players is penalized during a game against the Senators at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Nov. 15, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)
CALGARY - You can call it the Sutter Bowl, if you want.
Considering the Saddledome is more likely to resemble a circus than a hockey rink Saturday when former Flames GM Darryl Sutter returns to Calgary as bench boss of the Los Angeles Kings to stare down sibling Brent across the glass, we’re going with Battle of the Ringling Brothers.
With all the peripheral events taking place — from the reacquisition of Michael Cammalleri to (possibly) hearing from Darryl Sutter for the first time since he was asked to resign last December — down at the Dome this week, it’s easy to forget there’s an actual game on the line.
“There’s a lot of distractions for tomorrow’s game, that’s for sure,” centre Olli Jokinen said. “Our job is to leave everything out there on the ice and focus on playing good hockey.
“Everybody’s aware of Darryl coming back, and brother against brother, but at the end of the day, it’s Flames against L.A.
“They’re ahead of us in the standings. It’s a team we play four more times. This is like a playoff game for us.”
Regardless of the Western Conference standings, you get the feeling the intensity would be ramped up in spitethe Sutters’ insistence it’s just another game.
Money will almost definitely be pinned silently to a cork board in either dressing room for whoever scores the game-winner.
Voices will be raised and scowls will be at their desperate best.
Of course, neither bench boss will admit as much.
“We’re used to it,” Darryl told the Los Angeles Times this week. “Even when we were playing against each other, everybody always asked us about that. We were so close in age, us boys, we played against each other our whole lives. It wasn’t like somebody was better.
“So you did it your whole life. It was just on a different stage. That’s all it was.”
Brent’s comments Friday were strikingly similar.
“Don’t get caught up in any of it,” Brent said. “Our focus is on being ready to play.
“We’ve went through it already, had a meeting here this morning about it, about just making sure that tomorrow morning we’re focused on one thing — the task at hand, what we need to do and how we have to play — and not worry about any of the dynamics around it. Not get caught up in any of the dynamics around it.
“We know they’re out there. Probably more is made out of it than it needs to be.
“But it is what it is. That’s not where our focus is.”
It’s where the media focus is. And much of the hockey world as a whole.
When you consider all that’s gone on over the last year, with Darryl resigning to a year of silence, Brent sticking around as head coach, then the Kings bringing big brother back behind their bench to set up their first coaching duel in the NHL, it makes for great headlines.
“Yes, it’s the first time. But you know what? We’re so accustomed and used to all that, it’s not even that big of a deal. We’ve always played and always competed against each other,” said Brent, one of seven Sutter brothers who grew up on the ranch in Viking.
“It’s always been something we’ve always done. Right from when we were kids growing up and then playing against each other in pro hockey.
“To us, it’s not really a big deal. Darryl’s coming here to coach his hockey team, I’m here coaching our hockey team. It’s the L.A. Kings against the Calgary Flames, and that’s the way we look at it.
“We’re both going to want to go out there and win. We played for keeps, and it’s no different coaching against each other.”
Let the show begin.