Darryl Sutter has one of the most interesting journey's to the National Hockey League. He all but gave up on his NHL dream and spent a lonely year in Japan in the late 1970s before getting back on track.
Darryl, who had turned down full college scholarships to play junior hockey, was so ticked off at the entry draft snub that he opted to play the following season in, of all places, Japan. One of the owners of the Lethbridge Broncos was Japanese and invited Darryl to come to Japan and play professionally over there.
It was certainly an interesting experience for Darryl. There was only one other Westerner on team called Iwakura Tomakomai. His name was Doug Johnson of Edmonton, but since he was married the two didn't spend much time together off the ice. That left Darryl rather lonely. Some of the older Japanese people and even some of his teammates didn't like him being around, mostly because he didn't really follow their strict cultural guidelines. For example in Japan it is custom to bow to the older generation. After practices, younger players were to bow to the older players before heading to the dressing room. Darryl just skated off.
Darryl never regretted his Japanese trip. He got away from his troubles and learned a lot about himself over there. He made some nice money too, and in the process rewrote the Japanese record book for hockey.
When Darryl returned to Canada in February of 1979, the Hawks asked Darryl to finish out the season with their farm team. Darryl, who grew up a Hawks fan, fit in nicely and impressed the Hawks. They subsequently signed him to contract, and Darryl's NHL dream was back in focus.
Here's the full Darryl Sutter biography.