Sutter's sour power

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:54 PM ET


 TAMPA -- "One less Finn. Fewer vowels."

 When Darryl Sutter offered that quip in answer to the question of to what degree the Calgary Flames would miss Ville Nieminen, you figured he'd arrived in town in a good mood with a good attitude about the one-game suspension to his Esa Tikkanen-type winger.

 But, no ...

 No, Sutter was steamed and went out of his way to create the perception of Calgary being a team everybody from commissioner Gary Bettman to the American media and even U.S. customs officials is trying to hose.

 Without naming league commissioner Bettman by name, Sutter essentially said the one-game suspension to Nieminen was taken out of the hands of Colin Campbell by his boss.

 DECISIONS MADE IN NEW YORK

 "The decisions are made in New York, not Toronto, so you can talk to Colie all you want," he said.

 Sutter was pressed by the media in the ballroom of the Wyndham Hotel when the Flames arrived at 5:10 p.m. local time yesterday.

 "You say the decision was made in New York, not Toronto, but did you talk to Colie ..." a reporter began when Sutter cut him off.

 "Hey, the media is a powerful tool, believe me. It's unfortunate that's what ends up, you know ..." He let the thought trail off but left the impression Bettman knee-jerks to U.S. media reaction.

 "I hold myself responsible because I don't bitch and whine in the media. I don't let our players talk about officiating in the media.

 "You know, it would be better off making headlines about other incidents, and I don't.

 "We never talk about, to be quite honest, some of the injuries you guys don't know about until the next day. And you don't know that they were bad hits until we bring it up after the fact.

 "So that's something that I have learned - that you should bitch and complain and whine. It has an impact."

 At one point Sutter's cell- phone rang.

 "Probably New York again. Got to talk to Canada's Team. We're used to it. Doesn't really affect us," said Sutter.

 "Was it shocking to you that they suspended him?" someone asked.

 "No. It wasn't shocking to us either," he said. "As I've said, I've seen it all through the playoffs. We have lost three players to injuries that there were a total of two minutes in penalties called.

 "So fine, we know what we're up against.

 "We're the underdog. We've said that. I'm not saying it now to make a point, but it's dead-on true. We're the little team that wasn't supposed to be here. And a lot of people don't want us to be here and to make sure that we're not successful. We know that," Sutter continued.

 Media members pushed for Sutter to be perfectly clear about what he was saying.

 "When you said that you're the team that's not supposed to be here and people are making sure you are not supposed to succeed, what do you mean?" he was asked.

 "Next question. I answered that question," Sutter replied.

 "Do you mean the league? The media?"

 "Do I have to answer it?" Sutter said.

 "Please." someone said.

 "None of your business," he replied.

 Sutter complained about how long it took to get through U.S. customs and left the impression Calgary was over-hassled because they were a Canadian team.

 Sutter ended up asking the last question of the session.

 "Before we leave, did Tampa make their players available yesterday on a travel day?" He was informed they did not.

 "None of the players were here? The Calgary Flames aren't available today then," he said.

 To me, this was a magnified, multi-dimentional version of the drip-drip-drip syndrome you hear from coaches and GMs after their teams lose Game 1 in the first round to get in the referees head and create an advantage for the next game. It's just that in this case, the next game is Game 5, tonight.

 DESERVED THE SUSPENSION

 The bottom line is that Nieminen deserved a one-game suspension for pasting Vincent Lecavalier face-first into the glass with his forearm. And he's a repeat offender this playoff year. He was suspended for a game for running over Detroit Red Wings netminder Curtis Joseph.

 Sutter took a no-brainer decision and turned it into 'Us against the U.S.'

 He also kept his players away from the media before the biggest game of the Stanley Cup playoffs and put a focus on every call which goes against Calgary tonight.

 And some people like to perceive him as a dumb farmer? Dumb like a fox.


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