Everyone in the kitchen, except Grace, was a little flushed from a short game of street hockey that had been played in front of the barn. Brian had added a touch of authenticity to the proceedings by slashing Ron good-naturedly across the thumb. "Sorry, Twin," he said. Duane, who is more than a match for the 5'11", 180-pound Brian in size but still very much the younger brother in both their eyes, then gave up the "puck"—really a tennis ball—when Brian raised his stick and feigned a spear. The ball sat unattended as Brian waited for the next brave fool. There were no takers.
After the boys adjourned to the house, Brent sniffed at the cream for freshness. He's the equal of his older brothers in height but, at 18, he's still gangly. His upper body has yet to fill out. Sutters are late bloomers; even Duane is still wiry. It is generally felt that Brent has the tools to be the best of the brothers. Last season he was captain and MVP of the Red Deer Rustlers, the Tier Two national champions. He is a righthanded center and will play at least a year, maybe two, of Tier One hockey in Lethbridge before he makes a permanent step to the Islanders.
As his mother filled another creamer from the fresh jug in the refrigerator, Brent began telling about a bench-clearing brawl before the opening face-off at one of Red Deer's playoff games. "We had a big, tough, physical team," he was saying. "Never lost a fight all year. We killed them. I loved it."
"Of course you loved it," Grace told him. "That's what you live for."
Duane is the gentlest Sutter, his playing style to the contrary. Sitting down to a plateful of eggs, he decided he had heard enough of the toughness of the Red Deer Rustlers, whom the twins had also played for. "I got 225 minutes of penalties my last year in Red Deer, and I bet 200 of them were stepping in for Pukey," he said.
Brent was appalled. "That's bull, Dog."
"It's true, Pukey, and you know it."
What can one say in the face of such a lie? "You know how Dog got his name?" Brent finally blurted. "Brian beat him up one time, and he went into his room bawling and howling like a dog, yip, yip, yip, all night."
"I'll drop you like a bad hammock," Duane answered.
Duane knows all about being dropped like a bad hammock. The first time he played against Brian in the NHL, Brian prodded him with his stick, called him gutless and finally cut him across the bridge of the nose when they were chasing a loose puck. To the amusement of the Islanders on the bench, Brian stopped to apologize. He is an aggressive player, not a mean one. But the lesson was clear: on the ice, you play for keeps. "Brian controls the younger ones," says a friend. "They're all scared to death of him."