As Shaun Sutter discovered when he talked to Regina Pats general manager Brent Parker, there’s something to be said about a first impression.
“I didn’t think I did anything special. I went to Regina to interview for the job and a lot of the things I talked about as far as communicating and working with players, I thought were pretty standard,” the Red Deer minor hockey graduate and new assistant coach of the Pats said this week.
“Basically, they liked what I said and I’m just glad that I got the opportunity to pursue the position. It’s a good organization and a lot of people who are in the same boat as myself don’t get that opportunity to go to a good place. I feel pretty fortunate.”
Sutter was short-listed following his recent interview and was officially hired on Monday. He’ll serve under head coach Curtis Hunt, who’s back with the Pats after one season with the Ottawa Senators organization.
The 29-year-old son of former NHL player and coach Brian Sutter was in Europe the past three winters, playing in England, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and last season in Italy. He toiled in the North American minor pro ranks for four years after graduating from the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.
The fourth-round pick of the Calgary Flames in the 1998 NHL entry draft was married last year and decided that now was the time to set down roots while staying involved in hockey.
“Coaching has always been something I’ve strived to get into and for personal reasons it felt like this was a good time to try,” said Sutter, who along with his father Brian, Paul and Chris Mason and Jamie and Patti Salé, co-chaired and participated in the Walter Gretzky CNIB Golf Classic on Wednesday at River Bend.
“My wife (Autumn) and I would like to start a family and be close to home. Being over in Europe and trotting around the globe is something we enjoyed and now we’re looking forward to going to Regina and hopefully having a good year.”
Sutter is convinced that his last name carried no weight in the Pats’ decision to hire him over Humboldt Broncos head coach/GM Dean Brockman, who guided his club to the SJHL championship each of the last three years and a national junior A title (Royal Bank Cup) in 2008.
“I don’t think that had a whole lot of bearing on it. I think regardless of my last name, if I didn’t have an interview I wouldn’t have the job,” he said. “I think they felt that I was the right person from the interview that I had.
“I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself, not necessarily because of my last name but because I’m a competitive person who’s always striving for better things and trying to improve myself. I think that kind of comes with being a Sutter. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for my family and the things they have done. I definitely draw upon their success, but as far as getting the position because of the Sutter name, I don’t think that factored into it.”
With no previous coaching experience, Sutter, armed with a two-year deal, will be learning on the fly. He’s not worried, not with Hunt back as the Pats’ head man.
“It’s a great organization, the oldest franchise in the Canadian Hockey League,” said Sutter, a former Red Deer AAA midget forward who also had WHL stops in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. “They have a lot of good people running the team and that’s another reason why I jumped at the opportunity.
“Curtis Hunt is an excellent WHL coach with NHL experience and the Parker family is highly-respected. It’s a great opportunity for me to work with great people who I can learn a lot from.”
l The WHL has approved the employment of a video replay system for the 2009-10 season. Video replay was used for the first time during this year’s playoffs and the board of governors gave it a full-time thumbs up at the league’s annual meeting in Vancouver this week.
“We just felt ultimately we need to get the call right,” WHL commissioner Rob Robison told the Regina Leader-Post. “I think everyone believes in the fact that we can use the system to give us more accurate calls. The two-man (referee) system, combined with video replay, is a significant improvement over where we were just a few years ago with the one-man system attempting to make those calls.”
Meanwhile, the league decided to maintain the current conference playoff format that has been in place for the past two years through the 2013-14 season.
The WHL also announced it will be expanding its officiating development program to include video training centres for referees and additional linesmen training camps throughout Western Canada, and adopted a new player recruitment strategy which will include the hiring of a director of player recruitment who will focus on promoting the WHL scholarship program and the overall benefits of playing in the WHL to top prospects in Western Canada and the United States.
l The Prince George Cougars cut ties with long-time head scout Russ Smart last week, moving assistant GM Wade Klippenstein into the role.
Smart, a Red Deer resident, was with the Cougars for 18 years, dating back to the team’s existence in Victoria. The franchise relocated to Prince George in 1994.
“I went out and met with Russ last week, and it was heavy hearts on both sides because he’s been around for a long time and worked very hard and been loyal to the Cougars. But I just felt it was time to go in a different direction with a different guy who we’re very comfortable with,” Cougars GM Dallas Thompson told the Prince George Citizen.
Contact Greg Meachem at email@example.com