Sens coach homes in on wins

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

CALGARY — Cory Clouston's first trip through Alberta is a costly one.

The Viking, Alta., product spent a pretty penny on getting friends and family tickets to games in Edmonton and Calgary.

But the Senators bench boss refused to say his first visit as an NHL coach was overly special.

Instead, he’s focused on coming away with victories. Just like the Sutter clan that came before him from Viking, Clouston is mostly business when it comes to the game.

“It’s nice to see friends and family,” Clouston said before his team took on the Flames Thursday night at the Saddledome.

“I’m here for hockey and we’re trying to win games.”

When Clouston was just six years old, Brian Sutter made his NHL debut with the Blues, and the Sutter clan would put Viking on the map.

In a town of about 1,000 people, having six NHLers come from one place has a profound effect on aspiring young players.

“Being a small town, those guys had influences on all the kids growing up in the community,” Clouston said.

“Mrs. Sutter and my mom were fairly good friends. There was just over 1,000 people, so everybody knew everybody.

“Any time somebody has success, it didn’t matter what field, it was a big deal. You were proud of that person and you could look up to that person.”

Clouston never made it to the NHL as a player, but he did have a successful university career with the Alberta Golden Bears.

After getting a degree from the U of A, he moved into coaching, starting with Powell River of the BCHL and then the Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL.

Joined McGill’s staff

In 1999, he became an assistant coach with the Kootenay Ice, where Ryan McGill was the coach, and he took over the Ice reigns in 2001 when McGill left.

McGill, who is now an assistant with the Flames, remains good friends with Clouston, who spent a year and a half with the Binghamton Senators before getting the promotion to the big club.

“Ryan gave me my first chance to coach in the WHL and he’s a great guy,” Clouston said. “He’s an intense man. We have a lot of similarities in that regard. I owe a lot to him for giving me my first opportunity.

“We don’t talk a lot during the season, probably two or three times during the year. Obviously, I follow how he’s doing and vice-versa.”

The Senators had a revival since Clouston took over from Craig Hartsburg a year ago.

In 102 NHL games prior to Thursday, Clouston’s Senators have a 56-36-9 record, thanks in part to the work ethic instilled by a coach who was referred to as the ‘baby-faced drill sergeant.’

The same term could be used about the Sutters, and Clouston is familiar with Brent Sutter’s style after facing him several times with the Ice against the Red Deer Rebels.

“You always want to improve as a coach and get better, but you are who you are,” Clouston said. “There are probably some similarities to how we play and the way Kootenay played.

“There are some similarities between how Red Deer played and how these guys play. They have the same attention to detail, and you can see Brent all over that.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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