April 23, 2006

Rich Sutter

Rich Sutter was no different than any of his 5 brothers who also played in the National Hockey League. All six brothers played the exact same style - hardnosed, mucker and grinder, forechecker, role player, pest, and, above all, winner.

However Rich probably had to play even harder than the rest of his brothers to stick in the National Hockey League. He was probably the least skilled of the six and he was mislabeled early in his career due to an unfortunate incident in Pittsburgh. Yet he understood his limitations and made up for the shortcomings with the family's characteristic hustle and desire.

Rich was drafted 10th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1982. Six selections earlier Rich's twin brother Ron was chosen by the cross-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. That marked the highest drafting of twin brothers until 17 years later when the Sedin twins Daniel and Henrik were drafted 2nd and 3rd overall.

Every team in hockey wanted a Sutter, except for the Penguins apparently. They soured on Rich quickly. They said he had a bad attitude. Rich was disappointed with his ice time early in his rookie season, and let the Penguins management know that he would rather be playing in junior than sitting on the bench in the NHL. From that point on no matter what Rich Sutter did, it wasn't enough for the Pens. He was traded in early October of his second season as a pro. The whole Pittsburgh chapter is messy, as some of the Pens management team bad mouthed Rich to the point where they were potentially ruining his career. Rich was bitter and even to this day he doesn't like to talk about it.

Like the Sedin Twins, Rich and Ron were quickly reunited. After just 9 games total in Pittsburgh, the Flyers traded for Rich in a deal involving lots of draft picks. Ron went on to a long career in Philadelphia but Rich's stay was relatively brief, playing three years with his brother.

Rich cherished his short time in Philly, and not just because Ron was there. He made some great friends and loved the city, But he was shocked when in the summer of 1986, he was sent to Vancouver in a deal for J.J. Daigneault.

Sutter enjoyed 4 years in Vancouver, posting 20, 15 and 17 goals in the first three years respectively. Sutter, who played both wings, often found himself on a line of midget bangers with Steve Bozek and a veteran Stan Smyl. The trio became known as "Club Chaos" or "Hack-Smack-and-Whack - in no particular order."

Those were lean years for fans of the Vancouver Canucks, but Sutter's endless hustle was always appreciated. Unfortunately, the most memorable moment of Sutter's stay in Vancouver, and maybe his whole career, was a serious injury. On October 23, 1988, Sutter was the victim of viscious high sticking incident with the Oilers Mark Messier. Sutter was entering into the Oiler zone by cutting across the middle of the ice. Messier, deciding to play oral surgeon skated by with his stick at head level and clotheslined Sutter. Sutter broke several teeth, ultimately losing four. Sutter spent hours in the dentist chair. The Canucks team dentist even noted that he had to remove hockey tape which was embedded in Sutter's mouth.

Richie, who was tremendously popular among Vancouver fans, was traded with Harold Snepsts, the ultimate Canuck cult-hero, to St. Louis late in the 1989-90 season. He spent the next three years in St. Louis, the first two with his brother Brian as the head coach. The last two years in St. Louis Rich was reunited with Ron as the Blues traded for his rights too.

Prior to the 1993-94 season, the Blues placed Rich on waivers and he was picked up for relatively nothing by the Chicago Blackhawks. It was another unique situation for Rich as he played with his other brother Brent and both were coached by brother Darryl! Rich either played with or for all of his NHL brothers except for Duane.

Rich's final season was the lock-out shortened year of 1995. It wasn't a great year for Rich either. He bounced from Chicago to Tampa Bay before ending up in Toronto. He retired after the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs.

Rich scored 149 goals and 166 assists in 874 hard played games. He added 1411 PIMs.

Rich has been doing some scouting since retirement, although like his brothers he too would like to get into coaching. He once even was quoted as saying that he'd like to join twin Ron and run a team together!

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