The most famous hockey family in Central Alberta is being recognized for their contributions to the sport in the province.
With a combined total of 4,994 regular season NHL games, eight Stanley Cups (six playing, two coaching) and a lifetime of getting seven hockey players to and from practices and games between them, the Sutter family of Viking, Alberta needs no introduction.
Gary, Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich and Ron Sutter and their parents, Grace and Louis, are set to be inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame (AHHOF) during a special ceremony in Canmore this summer, Hockey Alberta announced last week.
Of the seven siblings, Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich and Ron all got their start playing minor hockey in Viking before joining the Red Deer Rustlers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and later the Lethbridge Broncos of the WHL. They all went on to have long and successful careers in the National Hockey League and they all continue to be involved in the game in various forms to this day.
Gary, who is rumoured to be the best hockey player of the bunch, decided not to pursue a professional hockey career, instead choosing to stay and work on the family farm.
“It’s a huge honour. To be quite honest you don’t even think about it. You never talk about it, you don’t think about it you just go about your day or your life and when we got told a couple of weeks ago that this is what’s going to take place, there’s no question you’re tremendously honoured,” said Brent, who is now the owner, head coach and general manager of the Red Deer Rebels organization.
“We’re all pretty humble guys and we were really fortunate that the game of hockey has been really good to us.”
According to Brent, for the Sutter family hockey, baseball and football were the primary sports. The brothers played hockey in the winter, baseball in the spring and football in the fall.
But no matter what time of year it was, hockey was always a part of the brothers’ lives growing up.
“You’d play ball hockey during the summer or we’d play up in the hay loft during the summer. During the winter you’re at the rink in your town skating or playing or we’re on the sloughs at the farm or playing road hockey. Hockey was kind of something we did year round,” Brent recalled, adding that Louis and Grace were always extremely supportive of their children’s athletic pursuits.
“The reality of it is that for six boys to make it in one family in the National Hockey League — and Gary probably could have if he would have stayed the course but he chose to go in a different direction — mom and dad obviously had a big part in us all being successful.”
Beyond their accomplishments inside the rinks, the family has also had a tremendous impact on the minor hockey community in Central Alberta through the Sutter Fund, which provides financial support for youth athletic associations and other groups, and through their continued involvement in the community as a whole.
“The Sutter Fund, when we put it together a long time ago, was to just not help sports teams and stuff like that but to help out for different reasons in the community and give to different societies and give to different reasons.
“With the Sutter Fund it’s more than just the name on it, it’s the people that are involved that put so much work and time into it.”
According to the Sutter Fund web site, the charity has donated over $2 million to various community organizations since it was formed in 1996.
The Sutter family will be officially inducted into the AHHOF on July 23rd at the Coast Hotel in Canmore.