Bob Suter won the gold medal with the Miracle on Ice team in 1980 and his son, Ryan, came excruciatingly close to matching the feat 30 years later in Vancouver. Ryan will try again, this time with more experience and heightened expectations.
There have been times when Bob Suter’s gold medal from the 1980 Miracle on Ice would go missing for a week. He never worried about it, just figured one of his kids forgot it in his locker at school.
“To be honest, I had it in here at the rink yesterday,” said Suter, who now runs a hockey rink in Madison, Wisc. “And I forgot to bring it in so it’s sitting between the seats in my pickup truck right now.” Suter obviously thought that when it came to his gold medal, an object’s utility lies in its accessibility. That’s why he never squirreled it away in a safety deposit box, instead allowing his kids to take it to school for Show and Tell. “If somebody wanted to take it to school or one of my parents’ or my wife’s friends wanted to see it, then you have to go through the hassle of getting it,” he said. “And if I put it in a safe, I might forget the combination.”
Bob’s son, Minnesota Wild and U.S. Olympic team star Ryan Suter, isn’t sure he’d be so cavalier with his gold medal should he ever win one. He already has three gold medals of his own – one from the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and the Under-18 World Championship in 2002 and the 2004 World Junior Championship. Unlike his father, whose team went into the 1980 Winter Olympics as a longshot to win gold, the U.S. team going to Sochi is expected to be at or near the top of the podium. One of the reasons for that is they have Suter, a minute-munching defenseman who leads all NHL players in ice time and can play in any and all situations.
And personally, Suter has some extra motivation. In 2010, he was on the ice during overtime when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal for Canada. Suter took Crosby as he went to the net, then took Jarome Iginla in the corner as he passed it out to Crosby, who beat Brian Rafalski and scored.
“In 2010 we were the underdogs and we liked that, but this year it’s a little different,” Ryan Suter said. “We have a lot of guys returning and our expectations on ourselves are high and I’m sure a lot of people have high expectations of us. It’ll be a good challenge.”
Bob Suter and his son have a lot in common with respect to representing their country. Bob was part of the most famous hockey team the United States will ever see. Ryan has played in 10 different World Championships at varying levels and in the Olympics. But while Ryan is one of the truly elite defensemen in the NHL and has the salary to show for it, Bob was slightly rougher around the edges. In fact, he piled up 100 or more penalty minutes in two different seasons in college hockey at the University of Wisconsin, which was almost unheard of that level in the 1970s. He was drafted in 1977 by the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL and the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association, but never played a game in either league. Instead, he went back to Wisconsin and got into the sporting goods business and now owns a rink. He coached his son until Ryan went off to the Culver Military Academy as a teenager.
“If I could have been even close to the player (Ryan) is,” Bob Suter said, “I probably would have played (in the NHL) for a while.”
Even with his experience, there isn’t much the elder Suter can pass onto his son that Ryan hasn’t already experienced. Bob was there every step of the way in 2010, but with security and safety being such a concern, he likely won’t be in Sochi. Bob has already publicly said he won’t be going, but hasn’t ruled out a trip of the Americans are in the gold medal game and the Suters have another chance to pull off the father-son task of winning gold medals.
“I guess we’ll see how it goes as we get closer to the medal round and see what happens,” Bob Suter said. “(Security) would be in the back of my mind, but there’s a lot going on here. I’m actually getting together with a few of the guys from ’80 and we’re doing a couple of events during the beginning of the Olympics. I just don’t want to be a distraction to Ryan.”
Here's a link to a video featuring Bob and Ryan Suter.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampell