From NYHJ: Family ties to the Island
by Wayne Fish/Columnist
A lot of boys probably would roll their eyes when their fathers told them what it was like growing up and recalled — albeit with a bit of embellishment — their glory days in sports.
But not the young Brandon Sutter — and not when your dad’s name happens to be Brent Sutter.
All the elder Sutter did was win a pair of Stanley Cups on Long Island, where Brandon was born. Even though Brandon was moved to Chicago as an infant (because dad was traded there) and identifies himself as a Canadian, he still feels fortunate to have that family connection to the New York Islanders dynasty.
Now 23 and a new member of the explosive Pittsburgh Penguins after coming over from Carolina in the offseason deal that sent Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes, the Huntington, N.Y.-born forward can understand why Brent talks about “The Island’’ in such glowing terms.
“I was born there,” Brandon said, “but I actually don’t remember much at all. But my dad had a lot of good years there. He really liked it there and my uncle (Duane Sutter) did, too. Won a couple Cups there. I think it’s still kind of a special place for them.’’
Brandon grew up in an intense hockey environment knowing big things were expected of him. His uncles, including the aforementioned Duane, along with Ron, Rich, Brian and Darryl, have left their marks on the game as NHL players, coaches, scouts, general managers and the like.
Yet Brandon says there’s not a lot of pressure to uphold the family name. If there’s any challenge, he feels, it’s to make a name for himself.
“I think I just go and play,’’ he said. “I think like everyone else out there, doesn’t matter what your name is or who you are. I’ve been compared to my uncles and my dad since I was young, and then in junior hockey. But I think I’m my own player. … But it’s pretty special how much hockey means to our family.’’
Brandon was drafted in the first round, 11th overall, in the 2007 draft and played junior hockey for his dad while Brent coached the Red Deer Rebels. In his first three seasons with Carolina, Brandon averaged 17 goals and 35 points.
Now he gets to show his skills for one of the most talented teams in the league, whose roster includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But even Sutter admits the Penguins have a ways to go to catch those 1980s Islanders, who won four straight championships and created a unique sports identity for Long Island.
“They had a special team,’’ he said. “You could argue they were the best of all time. Those four or five years they had there were pretty cool. I’m glad to be part of that because it was so special. I know when my dad went back to that building (Nassau Coliseum) to coach it meant a lot. The rink isn’t there much longer, but it means a lot to him.’’
And what of dad’s connection to those legendary Isles, like Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Billy Smith? He’s heard all the war stories, and there’s no eye-rolling, either.
“I know my dad still keeps in touch with a few of the guys,’’ Brandon said. “Clarke Gillies, obviously my uncle and Bobby Nystrom. They had a pretty special group there and I think it’s something they will cherish forever.’’
A dual citizen, Brandon has opted to play for Canada in international play. That, however, doesn’t mean that the United States or Long Island aren’t dear to his heart.
“I’ve kind of been moved around a bit, but Canada was home.’’ he said. “But in a way it’s still kind of cool to say you were born somewhere else than most people know.’’
Even though Brandon is too young to remember much about Long Island except what he sees in pictures, he does know that the town of Uniondale and the surrounding area hold a special place for several members of the Sutter family.
This was brought home when he saw how his parents got so emotional after Hurricane Sandy wreaked its destruction on the area in October.
“I know when the hurricane hit, it affected my parents — it was tough, they spent 10 years out there,’’ he said. “I was too young to remember, but for my parents and my uncle, it was pretty devastating.’’
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of New York Hockey Journal.