Ryan Suter learned the game of hockey from his father, Bob, who suddenly passed away last week. But the father/son bond went much deeper than the ice surface that they so often shared together.
So, it was an especially difficult first day of Wild training camp for Ryan, who returned to the ice for the first time since learning about his father’s passing. The defenseman was skating in an informal captains’ practice on Sept. 9 when his wife, Becky, pulled him off the ice and broke the heart wrenching news.
“I didn’t know what it would be, then she said, ‘Your dad’s not good,’” Ryan said. “We were really close, just a really good guy. I’m going to miss him.”
To many, Bob Suter will be best known as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic “Miracle on Ice” Hockey Team that won gold in Lake Placid, N.Y. But it was his involvement in the hockey community in Madison, Wis., where he’ll be missed the most. Bob helped build Capitol Ice Arena. When he passed, he was doing what he loved: working at the arena.
“My dad was a hard-working guy,” Ryan said. “He wore his blue jeans and work boots to work everyday. He didn’t expect anything from anyone. Everything he got, he worked for. He wasn’t ashamed to be in his work boots and be at the rink from sun up to sun down on weekends.”
Ryan said that his dad did everything at the rink, from scrubbing toilets to running the Zamboni. He also coached the Madison Capitols and Ryan said that people of all ages have told him about the impact his father had on them.
“Everywhere you go, people are coming up to me and telling me stories about how great my dad was,” Ryan said. “It’s a pretty special feeling to hear the stories. That’s how we have to live on, through the memories.”
Suter was raw and emotional as he spoke to the media today after practice. For those in attendance, the love and respect that Ryan had for his dad was palpable. His voice shook as he tried to articulate the gamut of emotions he was feeling. The defenseman said that more than 4,000 people were in attendance at Bob’s wake. So many showed up they had to turn people away.
“That just shows what kind of guy he was and what kind of impact he had on hockey and on people,” Ryan said.
His teammates and the Wild organization were some of the many who showed support for the Suter family. Minnesota Wild Owner Craig Leipold flew the entire team to Madison for the service.
“It was hard,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “Bob was part of our team...when you see Sutes and his family and how difficult it was for them...feeling terrible for them.”
“For those guys to be there, it was awesome,” Ryan Suter said. “Every one of them has reached out to me, and tried to help. I can’t say enough about the guys and the organization. It’s a special group of people here.”
Bob’s motto was, “It’s all about the kids.” The Bob Suter Memorial Fund has been founded in his memory. The fund will serve as a means of carrying on Bob’s legacy of passion and mentorship for the youth hockey community throughout Wisconsin and the United States. To donate and learn more, go here.
“We’re going to try and give back to hockey,” Ryan said. “Whether it’s buying equipment or helping kids pay for their ice fees and things like that.”
Ryan’s now focused on moving forward. While the rink was always a sacred place between father and son, where they shared so many memories, it’s also a place where Ryan can begin the healing process.
“That’s the cool thing about hockey, you get to get out on the ice and you don’t really have to think about anything, you can just go out and be in your own little world,” Ryan said. “We have to move on and have a really good year for him.”