If I had to be adopted, I'd want to be a Sutter," NHL coach Pat Burns once said. "Those guys have a special mixture." Indeed it's hard for anyone who has followed the game in the last 20 years not to feel just a little bit of envy when it comes to the Sutter family. In the 1980s, there were six Sutter brothers Brian, Darryl, Duane, Brent, Ron and Rich all playing in the NHL. The papers were filled with family photos of the six, all in NHL team sweaters or posing outside the family home.
"The Sutters know what it's all about," said NHL coach Mike Keenan, . "They woke up scared, not knowing if the crops were going to come in. You learn to respond." Born and raised on a farm in Viking, Alberta, the Sutter family not only raised pigs and cows and grew grain, but they raised their sons (seven in total) with the kind of spirit and determination that spelled success in the NHL. The Sutter's learned early what hard work was all about.
Brent Sutter was the final brother to remain in the NHL as a player, but two others Darryl and Brian have already gone on to careers in coaching. "Surprisingly, no one has really mentioned much about me being the last one left," he said. Perhaps that is because his impressive career speaks for itself. Brent spent 10 years with the New York Islanders and twice helped his team bring home the Stanley Cup. His best season was in 1984-85, when he had 42 goals and 102 total points. He was known around the league as a tough, hard-working player with a complete game, as adept at scoring goals as he was at mixing it up in the corners. Brent played the classic "Sutter" game, but he was likely the one who took the family business to the highest level.
Brent got his start in the NHL as a first-round pick of the Isles in the 1980 draft. When he was just 19, he got a chance to play on a Cup-winning team alongside his brother Duane. "It's really comforting to have a member of your family with you," he said. "Duane and I live together and we talk about a lot of things, not just hockey. I never felt better than on the day I found out that I'd been drafted by the same team as Duane."
Prior to making the Isles, Brent spent some time playing junior hockey with the Lethbridge Broncos, where he played on a line with twin brothers Ron and Rich. Early in the 1991-92 season, he was traded by the Islanders to Chicago with Brad Lauer for Adam Creighton and Steve Thomas. He spent the last seven years of his NHL career in the Windy City. During his time with the Hawks, his older brother Darryl coached Brent.
Brent also played for Team Canada as a member of the notorious Kamikaze Line along with Rick Tocchet. "I might not score as often as I once did," he said modestly later in his career, "but other areas of my game are better than when I was younger." Hawks coach Craig Hartsburg once described Brent's style of play: "He does all the little things that need to be done for a team to be successful." That sums up the Sutter family recipe for success on the farm and on the ice.
After a 17-year NHL career, Sutter became the head coach of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels in 1999-2000. In his eight seasons as owner, president, general manager and coach of Red Deer, Sutter led the Rebels to a 314-194-68 record in 576 regular-season games behind the club's bench. In 2007, his reign in Red Deer came to an end when he resigned to become head coach of the New Jersey Devils.