Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Calgary Flames

ALL-TIME ALL-STARS - SUTER

He was picked late in the draft with little fanfare but won the Calder and became one of the greatest offensive blueliners in Flames history

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

They are the best of the best in Calgary Flames history.

Over 24 days we will profile our All-Time All-Stars (listed alphabetically at each position). Make sure to check back daily to see who's getting the nod. Click here to see all players already selected:

 

Way back then, a soon-to-turn-20-year-old Gary Suter hadn't even bothered to travel to Montreal for the 1984 NHL Entry Draft at the fabled old Forum.

Frankly, he didn't see much point.

In fact, he was secretly kind of hoping to be bypassed completely. Good chance of that happening, too.

"I was back in Madison at the time (and) kind of bummed out," he said.

"Initially, anyway. 

"That was the year, remember, when all those free agents - the Adam Oateses and Ray Staszaks - were happily signing wherever they wanted to go. I was really hoping to go that route. Then I got picked and it was like: 'Oh . . . yeah? . . . Great . . .'

"I remember the Flames sent me a jersey with a No. 9 on it. And I thought: 'What gives? Have they traded Lanny McDonald?' 

"He was the only Flame I knew, I'd ever heard of, at that time. I was confused. 'Why are they giving me his number?'

"Turns out the 9 was for the round I'd been drafted in."

Ninth round, 180th overall, wedged between two long-forgotten selections named Eric Demers and Duane Wahlin.

The reluctant longshot would go on to log 617 regular-season games in the colours, still ranks fifth in points (565), fourth in assists (437).

One of those largely-unknown U.S. college gems unearthed by GM Cliff Fletcher's diligent scouting staff at the time, Suter - handed No. 20, not McDonald's signature No. 9, on his first day down at the Saddledome in the fall of '85 - would make the big team straight out of his first NHL training camp and go on to pile up 68 points and win the Calder Trophy as rookie-of-the-year, upsetting Toronto's highly-favoured winger Wendel Clark.

"That whole year,'' he recalled, "was magical for me. I came to camp just hoping to make the team."

The fates were certainly Suter's on side. He had a head coach here, Badger Bob Johnson, who'd also made the NHL jump from the University of Wisconsin. And he joined a team that was re-tooling to take a run at the powerhouse up north. 

Strong, swift on his skates with a powerful shot and enviable hockey IQ for someone so young, he fit in seamlessly.

"He created,'' said his first regular defence partner here, Neil Sheehy, "a dimension we didn't have. He could really skate. Hey, (Paul) Reinhart was skilled but he wasn't a skater.

"Sutes got the puck and he'd … go."

He and Al MacInnis were quickly installed as the point pair on the powerplay's No.-1 unit, and developed an uncanny allegiance.

In 1987-88, the Calgary PP hummed along at an astounding 28.1% efficiency, the 54-win/117-point/Stanley Cup of the following year, at 25.2%.

In the uncompromising Brad McCrimmon, who arrived in 1986, he found another ideal defence partner.

"(McCrimmon) meant a great deal to my career," acknowledged Suter. "He steadied my play. We just clicked. I was more offensive and he was rock-solid defensively. A great complement to my game.

"I played with (Chris) Chelios and MacInnis, too, but I ended up having my best career year with him as my partner. We just hit it off."

On April 4, 1986, he set a franchise record for points in a period, four, versus Edmonton (subsequently tied three times) and the next season strung together a Flames-best 16-game point-scoring streak (since equalled twice).

Unfortunately, with the big prize within reach, Suter would be injured for the both Calgary's runs to the final during his stay, suffering strained knee ligaments 10 games into the playoff push in '86 and then, even more cruelly, a broken jaw during Game 7 of the first-round series against Vancouver in '89.

 Nevertheless, with the dynamism of his play and the numbers put up, he left his mark.

View More