March 21, 2012 10:56 AM
What hockey’s most famous family began in Viking, Alberta, has continued somewhere none could have predicted - North Carolina.
With Brandon (Carolina) and Brett Sutter (Charlotte) already playing in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization, another cousin, 20-year-old Brody, has joined them following a four-year junior career with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League.
Together, the three represent the second generation of a family that once had six brothers who grew up on a farm in western Canada simultaneously play in the NHL during the 1970s and 80s. Brody’s father Duane is currently a scout with the Edmonton Oilers, while Brett’s dad Darryl (Los Angeles Kings) and Brandon’s dad Brent (Calgary Flames) are head coaches. An NHL team will likely select a fourth cousin, Lukas, son of Rich, this coming summer.
Though their fathers’ post-playing careers took them to various places around North America as they grew up, the three always spent plenty of time together back at the family’s home during the summer.
“It’s funny because the three of us used to play hockey in Brody’s basement and pretend to be announcers talking about how we were on the same team,” said Brett, the eldest of the three. “Now we’re one step closer to that dream.”
After arriving in Charlotte Tuesday evening, Brody, a right wing, practiced with the Checkers for the first time on Wednesday. He said that joining a professional team late in the season, as is typical of drafted players at the conclusion of their junior or college careers, could have otherwise been a daunting process if not for the presence of family.
“Brett and I have talked a lot this year so it’s good to know someone coming in,” said Brody, who briefly played on the same Lethbridge team as Zach Boychuk during the 2008-09 season. “It’s an older team without a lot of young guys yet, so that could have been intimidating.”
“Even back when he was drafted if he had questions about the organization or whatever, I’d try to help him along,” said Brett. “I think it’s good to have a familiar face to be there for you when you need it.”
Though Brody is a recent draft pick (a seventh-round choice in 2011), the fact that the Canes chose him in his second year of eligibility makes him a bit older than others in his class. As such, he was eligible to begin this season with the Checkers rather than return to junior. However, he said that things have worked out for the best.
“We had 11 rookies and started the season 3-22, so were pretty much out of the playoffs off the hop,” said Brody, who led the team with 60 points (30g, 30a) in 60 games. “It was disappointing that way, but personally I thought I played pretty well and learned a lot. I got to play 25 minute a game, which is more than I would have played here.”
Brody said that part of that learning process was learning to use his frame to his advantage. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds, he more closely resembles the tall, lanky frame of Brandon than he does the shorter, stockier Brett.
That will be a key when and if he suits up for the Checkers on an amateur tryout contract. There are no guarantees in terms of playing time on a team already crowded with capable forwards.
“The coaches just told me to come to practices and treat them like games,” said Brody. “They said that if there’s a situation where other guys aren’t playing well and I’m working hard in practice, I could get a chance.”
Working hard likely won’t be an issue for Sutter, who seems to share the same leadership skills as his cousins. All three were captains in junior hockey, with Brett, the current Checkers captain, and Brandon, an alternate captain with the Hurricanes, carrying those roles into the professional ranks.