by Aaron Vickers
For many scouts and NHL executives, a recent game between the WHL''s Calgary Hitmen and Red Deer Rebels provided an excellent look at players eligible for the upcoming entry draft in June.
For Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter, the game may have been more than an opportunity to get a closer look at one of his organization''s prospects, however.
That''s because skating for the Red Deer Rebels was none other than Brett Sutter, a player selected in the sixth round, 179th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by none other than Darryl''s Flames.
If the name doesn''t ring a bell, it should. Brett is Darryl''s son and the latest product of Viking, Alta., which developed his father and his five brothers, collectively known as the Sutter Brothers – the most famous set of siblings in hockey history.
But how does Darryl play the role of both father and the general manager of the NHL organization that holds Brett''s rights?
"It''s pretty simple," Darryl said. "Hockey is hockey. When it''s over, then I''m his dad again. I look at him – when I''m watching him play – as where he has to improve or where he fits in, that sort of thing."
The elder Sutter is no stranger to playing dual roles within the family. Darryl served as head coach for younger brothers'' Brent and Rich from 1993-1995 with the Chicago Blackhawks, while coaching brother Ron with the San Jose Sharks from 1997-2000.
It''s an experience that has helped him distinguish on-ice and off-ice relationships with family members.
"I learned a lot from coaching my brothers in the NHL." Darryl said. "There''s a real separation. Ice is thicker than blood, and when they''re off the ice, blood is thicker than ice."
That lesson has been re-enforced by another member of the Sutter clan.
Last season, Brett was traded from the Kootenay Ice to the Red Deer Rebels, a team managed and coached by his uncle Brent. With the Rebels, Brett also plays with his cousin Brandon – Brent''s son.
Under his uncle, Brett has amassed his most productive season to date, shattering his previous career high in goals by netting 28 this year and collecting a total of 57 points – also a career high for the six-foot, 192-pound forward.
He''s done it all while wearing his father''s old ''27'', a number worn by his father 20 years ago with the Blackhawks. Coincidentally, Darryl was chosen 179th overall in 1978 by the Chicago Blackhawks -- the pick the Flames used to draft Brett.
"I think it''s a number he picked a long time ago when he was a kid so I guess if it''s available he takes it," Darryl said with a chuckle.
The number may be about the only thing similar in their games, according to Darryl. With the change in the style of play in the last 20 years, both the game and its players have evolved to the point where Brett probably won't look like his dad on the ice.
"Well the style of game has changed so much, not my game or (Brett''s) game but the whole game has changed. With the way the game is now you have to be a really good skater and I wasn''t a very good skater," said Sutter, again laughing.
When Brett is tearing down the ice with the puck is dad able to cheer on his son as a proud papa?
"No, not really," Darryl said. "I''ve seen him enough growing up that now I watch these players as age groups. Tonight I''m watching 16 to 20-year olds and seeing where they fit in because that shows developmental progress."
So in typical Sutter fashion, it''s all business all the time for Darryl and Brett when it comes to hockey..
That is, until they''re able to get away from the rink, where blood is thicker than ice and the bond between father and son surpasses that of NHL executive and prospect.