Chapman would rather have the Sutters playing for him. Last season Red Deer was 49-9-2 in the regular season, during which the Rustlers set team scoring and penalty records and participated in six bench-clearing brawls. It's a rough league. They breezed through the playoffs to the Centennial Cup by winning 29 of 32 postseason games. Before the season they were asked by the owner of the team how they wanted to be paid—by the week, by the game, or by the month. "Chappy said the hell with that," says Richie. "He said we'd get $14 for a win, nothing for a loss or tie. It turned out we made more money that way."
And the coach—you see?—got him self another little edge.
Both Ron, who's a center, and Richie, who's a wing, have rangy builds—adolescent, really—so it's difficult to imagine either of them gooning it up. They're boyish and unfailingly polite, and they neither drink nor smoke. But they're Sutters and, already, will do anything to win. Especially Richie. "He's going to be a helluva pro," says Chapman. "He's got jam. He's the toughest of them all for his age." One time last season Richie challenged the entire Calgary bench during warmups, calling the opposing players spoiled rich kids and other, less tactful things. Bill White, the gentlemanly former NHL defense-man, was the Calgary coach, and Chapman recalls that White kept looking over at him to stop the harangue. Finally, White took matters into his own hands, saying to Richie, "Hold on now, son, just settle down."
"And as for you, Coach," Richie said to White in a respectful tone. "You can go...."
The aforementioned brawl during the warmups before the Centennial Cup playoff game was also the result of verbal instigation on Richie's part. "Chappy told me to stick my head in the other team's room before the game and say something," he says. "We were playing Prince Edward Island, so I called them a bunch of fishermen. I said they'd be back tending their nets in the morning."
Playing under Chapman is no great lesson in sportsmanship, but Junior hockey in Canada is very much a business. The point is, you learn how to win. "You talk about leadership," Chapman says with unbridled admiration. "One time between periods I asked Richie if he had anything to say. He's 16, right? He stood up and talked for 15 minutes. Finally he gets around to our goaltender, who's 6'3", and says, 'Bledsoe, you've played like horsebleep all week.' The goalie just says, 'You're right, Richie,' all sheepish. Oh, Richie's a leader."
Louie Sutter is 49, a sinewy man with a hard, farmer's body. He drinks hard and plays hard, and he's a good farmer for many of the same reasons his sons are good hockey players. There's a singleness of purpose about his work. He knows, literally, that he can reap only what he sows, so last year, with Duane's Islanders one game away from clinching the Stanley Cup, Louie refused to be talked into staying on and took a plane from New York back to Edmonton. It was time to plant the oats. "That was more important to him than the Stanley Cup," Torrey says. "You can see where the sons get that...well, whatever you want to call it."
Leo Kelly, owner of the Viking hardware store, remembers the grandfather, too. Old Charles Sutter, who was also a good farmer, if poor. "Anybody who raised 13 children in the dirty '30s had to be pretty good," Kelly says. Kelly recollects that when Charles was in his 60s he knocked out a man half his age for offending him in a bar. And Kelly remembers when Joe Sutter, one of Louie's brothers, challenged the boxing champ from another town. Folks in Viking put their money on Joe, and in the weeks before the fight they would stop over at the farm to make sure Joe was getting in shape. "Sure, I'm getting in shape," Joe would say, and to prove it he'd jump into the pigpen and start whaling on the pigs.
"Well, the night of the fight the other guy decks Joe in the first round," says Kelly. "He's lying there, out, and old Charles goes over and shouts, 'Get up, Joe! Get up!' Joe crawls around trying to get up; he looks like a spider. But he gets up and finishes that fight. He lost, but he finished." Kelly pauses. "You've got to understand the determination," he says—and one sees that it's very important to him that one does, because the Sutters are very much Viking's own. "They're all the same. They get that from being a Sutter.
"I've got one boy who could've played in the NHL like nothing. When he was young, well, he was so far ahead of any of them...." It's the dream of almost every Canadian father to have a son in the NHL, and here's a family that may soon have six. "He could've played in that league like nothing," Kelly concludes, "but he hasn't got any Sutter in him."