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Former NHLers pass on their life lessons to Olds hockey players

During the Olds Grizzlys Awards Night, NHL veterans Brian Sutter and Jay Rosehill had a strong message for Grizzlys players as the team wound up its season
From left, former Grizzlys play by play announcer Kevin Watson, former NHL player Jay Rosehill, former NHL player and head coach Brian Sutter and local radio personality Galen Hartviksen participate in the hot stove portion of the Olds Grizzlys Awards Night.

OLDS — Two NHL veterans had a strong message for Olds Grizzlys players as the team wound up its season: no matter how tough it gets, believe in yourself and always be a good teammate and a good person. 

That message was delivered during a hot stove session at the end of the Grizzlys’ 41st annual awards night and banquet, held March 4 at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites. 

Participating in the session were former NHL player Jay Rosehill who grew up in Olds as well as former NHL player and head coach Brian Sutter. 

Sutter was drafted by the St. Louis Blues second round (20th overall) in the 1976 entry draft. 

He spent most of his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues and later went on to be their head coach, played in three NHL all-star games.  

At one point, at just 21 years old, Sutter was named the Blues’ captain, the youngest captain in the NHL at that time. 

In 1991, he won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's best coach. His jersey was retired by the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 30, 1988. 

Later, back in Alberta, Sutter coached the Red Deer Rebels, then up until last year, the Innisfail Eagles. 

Rosehill played two seasons for the Grizzlys, then 34 games for the University of Minnesota Duluth.  

After a long journey through the minors, he made it to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 and later ended up with the Philadelphia Flyers. His last year in the league was 2014, still with the Flyers.  

Sutter and Rosehill recalled memories of their careers and took questions from former Grizzly play-by-play announcer Kevin Watson and CKFM broadcaster Galen Hartviksen as well as from the audience. 

Sutter recalled his first experience in junior hockey when, in the early 1970s, he tried out for the Red Deer Rustlers – and was cut. 

“It’s like yesterday when my dad dropped me off and kicked me out of the truck and left my hockey bag and a briefcase or suitcase and said ‘don’t call if you get cut’ because he was going home to combine, he recalled, sparking laughter. 

Sutter was cut after about three days in training camp. 

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said.  

He was scared to call his dad after what he’d said. 

“I slept in a phone booth behind the old arena in Red Deer that night.” 

Although he made it big in the NHL, Sutter said each fall when training camp came around, he was always scared of being sent down to the minors. 

Rosehill said he had an opportunity to play in Seattle in the Western League but decided instead to play for the Olds Grizzlys, even though it was Junior A hockey rather than major junior, the more direct route to the NHL. 

“I was kind of a bit of a momma’s boy and kind of a little chicken s--- to be honest. I didn’t want to move away from this town,” he said. 

He’d also noticed that a guy from east Olds who did make it to the ‘Dub didn’t last long, so he decided to take the junior A route. 

“I wanted to wear that jersey, I wanted to play with my brother, I wanted to stay at home and I was super proud when I actually made the decision to start playing for the Grizzlys,” he said.  

“And it was two amazing years that I’ll remember for a long time.” 

He said he got there because he was driven, obsessed by making it to the NHL. 

"That’s all I wanted, just to say that I did it. I didn’t want to be a Hall of Famer, I didn’t need to be an all-star, I just wanted to set foot and say – I just wanted to die and say I stepped on the ice,” he said. 

Sutter passed on a message he received from several of his idols on the Montreal Canadiens. 

“It was my first year as captain and they beat us in the playoffs. The old guys were waiting for me after the game. I don’t know why in the hell they’d want to talk to a dumb farmer, but I’ll never forget them looking me in the eye and saying ‘winners don’t always play on winning teams,” Sutter said. 

“Scoring goals isn’t everything. It’s all the other things. It’s being a good teammate, being a good friend. You’re only as good as the guy you’re sitting beside.” 

Rosehill stressed what a privilege it is to play the game at the junior level. 

"You guys are playing junior hockey for like, two or three years . . . and that’s it, it’s done. And my God, you will not forget it; it goes by quick. I know this is a cliché but it goes by so fast. You’ll be 60-80 years old talking about your hockey careers," he said. 

“It’s not an automatic playing junior hockey. One per cent of people playing hockey in Canada get to play junior hockey. You guys are doing that right now. It doesn’t happen to everyone.” 

Sutter and Rosehill said they both met great friends in hockey and found that some of the meanest, toughest players were great guys off the ice. 

“It was always the people you were with and it’s still that way today. The people that are good in sports are good in life,” Sutter said. 

“They’re respectful teammates. And If they’re respectful teammates they’re good husbands and good brothers and take care of people and that’s what it’s about. 

“If you never forget where you come from in life, you'll always remember where you’re going," Sutter added, sparking loud, long applause. 

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