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Mom's health another reason Sutter came home

by Todd Kimberley
The untold story of Brent Sutter’s return to Alberta?

Mum's the word.

Last season, his second at the helm of the New Jersey Devils, Sutter spoke publicly of the things he missed back in Alberta -- his wife Connie and daughter Brooke, his Sylvan Lake cattle ranch, his beloved Red Deer Rebels junior hockey franchise.

Privately, though, his thoughts were with his mother, Grace, the matriarch of the famed Sutter clan of Viking, Alta., who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2008.

"It's just another thing that I haven't talked about," Sutter, 47, told the Calgary Herald this summer. "(But) it wasn't easy for me, at all.

"I was down there and 3,000 miles away in New Jersey. I never had the opportunity to get back here when my mom was going through everything … that certainly bothered me."

When he was named coach of the Calgary Flames in late June, Sutter became the fifth member of the family in the club's employ, alongside brothers Darryl (general manager), Duane (director of player personnel) and Ron (Western pro scout), and nephew Brett (a center entering his third year of pro hockey).

Brent's move west did not come without a chat-room backlash from Devils fans, furious with New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello for allowing him to step down June 9 and walk away from his contract early without demanding compensation of the Flames.

Classy conduct, indeed, from Lamoriello, in light of Grace Sutter's health issues. The 73-year-old dynamo, after surgery and a series of radiation treatments last fall in Calgary, was given a clean bill of health two months ago.

"When it comes to health issues with anyone, especially in your family, it's very concerning. Certain things have to come ahead of this game. Hockey isn't everything." -- Brent Sutter

"When it comes to health issues with anyone, especially in your family, it's very concerning," Sutter said. "Certain things have to come ahead of this game. Hockey isn't everything."

As for the six hockey-playing Sutter brothers, Rich is the only one who never has drawn a paycheck from the Flames. Brian coached the club for three years at the end of the 1990s, while his son Shaun was a Flames prospect and farmhand for five years.

Inquiring minds want to know. How does it feel for Brent to step into an organization that already boasts three of his brothers?

"No. 1, it's not about comfortability," he told "Ronnie and Duane, their task is to do the best job they can in the roles they have in this organization. Obviously, Darryl's the same, as far as being general manager.

"I don't just look at us -- I look at the whole hockey staff. And we've got tremendous communication here. There are no hidden agendas. Everyone is on the same page, and everyone's involved in the process, and I think that's very, very important.

"We trust each other, but there's also trust through the whole organization, right from the top to the bottom."

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