Well, this week certainly crept up on me far faster than I'd anticipated. If you hadn't already heard, Bob Suter died earlier this month, and it's really weird being all "YAY!" about him when his death is still so fresh. But at the same time, I don't want to be excessively sad. I want to appreciate a truly awesome human being. So let's do it.
+ The Suter name is all but synonymous with hockey in Madison. Bob's dad, Marlowe, was a hockey player back when there were barely organized programs, and Bob grew up with a homemade hockey rink in his backyard (and a tiny one in the garage!). Bob won the state high school championship in 1975. Marlowe founded the Madison Capitals youth program in 1977, a year before Bob won the NCAA national championship with the University of Wisconsin (with fellow Badger Mark Johnson).
+ Off the ice, Bob was a calm, quiet, reserved, humble guy, coming across as gentle and shy. Fellow defender Ken Morrow calls him simple, straightforward and down to earth. On the ice, however, was an entirely different story. His selflessness carried over, but that was about it! His playing style has been described as pugnacious, fearless and aggressive, and he "specialized in mayhem." He was the guy that would fight on behalf of his teammates that weren't as willing to mix it up, and to this day is the University of Wisconsin's leader in all-time penalty minutes. Mike Eruzione nicknamed him Bam Bam for the way he was always knocking people around, and said that Bob was always the first guy to protect you on the ice and you always knew he had your back. He'd go to war for his teammates.
+ Bob's Olympic journey was a bit of an uphill climb, as he broke his ankle several months before Lake Placid. But Herb decided to stick with him, which speaks volumes about the value that Bob contributed. Even though he couldn't play anywhere near full strength by the time the Games rolled around, Herb decided it was worth absorbing the loss of an able-bodied player in order to keep Bob's attitude around. Bob didn't play in the medal round, and with Jack O'Callahan also playing in a limited capacity, Herb was cool with rotating between four defenders instead of the usual six if it meant hanging onto his crazy-passionate guys. (Kind of amazing, if you think about it!) Bob says his favorite Olympic moment was after Mark Johnson got hurt, and Herb "let him loose" to go wreak havoc on the guy that did it. I think that speaks for itself! :)
+ The Los Angeles Kings had drafted Bob into the NHL in 1977, and after the Olympics he decided to turn pro. He played minor league hockey for a few months, but wasn't totally sold on the idea of spending the rest of his life on buses in the minor leagues. He says he was impatient and had other things he wanted to do with his life, so only a few months after the Olympics, he decided to hang up his skates.
+ However, if you thought Bob Suter was done with hockey, you're sadly mistaken! He opened his own store at home in Madison selling hockey equipment, literally within six months of winning Olympic gold. At various points he both coached and managed the Madison Capitals, and was the manager of Capitol Ice Arena. Basically, he was all about bringing hockey to kids and growing the game. And the Suter hockey legacy doesn't stop with Bob: his brother Gary had an extensive NHL career which included a Stanley Cup win and an Olympic silver medal in 2002 (when Herb Brooks was the coach, coincidentally). And Bob's son, Ryan, is himself a huge NHL talent with the Minnesota Wild and a two-time Olympian. Ryan says his dad was so humble that he rarely ever talked about his Olympic accomplishments, and his gold medal was always accessible to be passed around to whoever wanted to see it. Perhaps poetically, Bob was at work at Capitol Ice when he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
I think we can all agree that we lost a great one.