Brian Sutter wasn’t out of coaching for long.
Less than four months after splitting with the Bentley Generals Sutter, and his coaching staff, have accepted a position with the Innisfail Eagles.
Assistant coaches Brian Stephenson and Jason Lenz and goaltender coach Andy Nowicki will join Sutter with the Eagles, who are celebrating their 65th anniversary this season.
“It’s an exciting time for Eagles hockey and our players, staff, sponsors and fans,” said Randy Graham, chairman of the Eagles’ board of the directors.
Jumping back into the Chinook Hockey League wasn’t something Sutter had planned.
“It was something that just fell into place,” he said. “But there was a whole pile of guys in Bentley who wanted to go from the coaches to training staff and a couple others.”
When Sutter and his staff parted ways with the Generals in May, the Innisfail board of directors were immediately interested. During the summer they approached Sutter.
“We’ve been talking for a couple of months now and we gave them our answer last week,” explained Sutter, who knows there’s a lot of work ahead.
“Look at their record last season, with one win, but they have a good group of people on the board who knows what needs to be done. They know things need to be upgraded.”
The Eagles finished last in the CHL with a 1-21-0-2 record, scoring a league low 60 goals and allowing a high of 178.
“It will take time, but there’s a process that we all have to go through. But the people are in place to do just that and it will be exciting,” continued Sutter, who looks at his time with the Generals as a base.
“We all worked hard to get the community involved and make them feel part of the team and for the most part we did that. The same thing in Innisfail.
“Obviously it’s a two-way street and things need to be upgraded and we need to put a good product on the ice. But even when we went to Bentley everybody told us what it took to win. But winners don’t talk about what it takes to win they know it has to get done and they do it.”
Now comes the hard part of building a team.
“But every since we accepted the phone has been ringing off the wall as far as players are concerned,” Sutter added.
“I think I had to recharge my phone four times in the last four days.
“It’s a chance to build something and be involved in something special. It will take time with a lot of sacrifices to be made. Expectations need to be raised and sights set higher.
“We need a tight knit group of players, coaches and management. You want a good hockey environment and atmosphere so that the players want to be part of it and not waste time when they’re here.”
When it came to players who have contacted him, Sutter wouldn’t name names, but did say a few were with the Generals.
The Eagles will be a senior AA team this season, but don’t expect that to last long.
“They think we have a good chance at winning a AA championship, but the thing is we play in a AAA league and if we do our job we’ll have a chance to knock someone out of the playoffs and out of the provincials,” Sutter added.
Sutter had a few other options when it came to coaching, but enjoys his time at home.
“I have three grand kids and I enjoy spending more time with them. I’m asked two or there times each winter to go to the NHL, but it’s never easy to leave the farm. And this is a good league. A minor pro level league and being involved is special.”
The Eagles don’t have a general manager, but that’s fine says Sutter.
“They have a good group of guys on the board, who have played and work together. It’s important to have a group of guys who can sit down and listen and work together.”
The Eagles have been around since 1947 when the Memorial Arena was first opened and have a strong tradition of success, something they want to get back.
They will open training camp in September.