|Senators head coach Cory Clouston hails from Viking, Alta., the same Alberta small town that has produced hockey's famed Sutter brothers (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Small-town guys really can make it to the big time.
Just ask Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston, who dared to dream at an early age and has risen all away from humble Prairie roots to the bright lights of the National Hockey League.
Then again, when you hail from Viking, Alta. — which has sent a raft of Sutter brothers to the NHL — you have plenty of reason to believe that anything is indeed possible.
“(The Sutters) were a little bit older than we were, but one of the first memories I have of going to watch a big game was when Ronnie and Richie and Brent were playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League championship for the Red Deer Rustlers,” Clouston said in reflecting on the “huge influence” hockey’s first family had upon a young boy from Viking. “They were just really good role models for you. They showed that just because you’re from a small town, that doesn’t mean you can’t make something of yourself.”
Though Clouston was raised in a family with its heart in harness racing — his parents, Diann and Wayne, met through their shared involvement in the sport — he envisioned a life in hockey from a young age.
“I think I was 13 or 14 years old, when you still have visions of being an NHL player,” said Clouston, whose playing career lasted through four years of hockey at the University of Alberta.
“But I remember making a comment (back then) to my mother that I thought one day I’d like to coach. When I was playing in university, it kind of crept into the back of my head.
“I helped out a friend who was coaching a major midget AAA team just outside of Edmonton. It was my first opportunity and I liked that. It was very rewarding. When I stopped playing… I just thought coaching was what I wanted to start into.”
"I think I was 13 or 14 years old, when you still have visions of being an NHL player. But I remember making a comment (back then) to my mother that I thought one day I’d like to coach. When I was playing in university, it kind of crept into the back of my head. " - Cory Clouston
Clouston’s first junior coaching job, with the Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL, came his way at age 25. Fifteen years later, he finds himself standing behind the bench of a team in the best hockey league in the world.
Proving that things often do come full circle, he now finds himself matching wits with some of those examples that showed him the way all those years ago.
“I coached against Brent (Sutter) for years in the Western Hockey League, when he was coaching the Red Deer Rebels,” said Clouston, the bench boss for the Kootenay Ice at the time. “Now I’m coaching against Brent when he’s in Calgary and with New Jersey last year. I coached Darryl’s son in Kootenay, so I’ve kept in fairly close contact with them. You always bump into them in arenas throughout Canada and now down in the States.
“It’s nice to be able to stop and talk to them. You have some familiar background and something in common, for sure.”