Writer Paul Brownfield, a Los Angeles native based in Brooklyn, embedded himself with the Kings during training camp and part of the preseason as he prepared a longform feature on Darryl Sutter. The end result, which was published last month, is outstanding. An excerpt is below, but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t read the entire thing before the start of tonight’s Kings-Canucks game.
From Los Angeles Magazine, December, 2014: The Ice Age of Coach Darryl Sutter
Those six left home—a two-bedroom house on 1,400 acres—as soon as they were old enough to play for junior teams. The plan was not to return to the farm before you’d played in the NHL at least until you turned 30. Knee problems dictated that Darryl, the third eldest, made it only to 29, the shortest playing career of any Sutter. He still has the scars, though, that prove he earned his keep. In 1984, when Darryl was a forward with the Chicago Blackhawks, he took a puck to the face that broke his nose, cheekbone, and left orbital bone, which in turn caused his eye to fall into his sinus cavity. Thirty years later that eye sits on a piece of plastic and wiring, and if you pinch him on the cheek, he won’t feel it. “It’s kind of weird, actually,” Sutter said, explaining that the nerve damage means he feels only “a tingle” when he bites his lip.
Injuries—even ones as severe as Sutter’s—don’t set you apart in hockey. The idea of sacrifice, particularly playing through extreme physical pain, is woven into the warrior culture of the sport. So Sutter surprised me when he said he had disappointed his mother after high school by turning down college scholarships to several Ivy League schools in order to play in the junior leagues and then professional hockey in Japan. Lombardi, the Kings’ GM, had told me Sutter passed on an offer of a full ride from Princeton; when I asked Sutter, he said that Harvard and Yale had recruited him as well. “I had years in high school where the only B I got was in physical education,” he said. That he passed up an Ivy League education reveals something fundamental about the man Kings fans are relying on to keep them in trophies: He is a lot more than what he appears to be. It is for outsiders to write him off as an incomprehensible, Fargo-esque character. The players swear by Sutter just as Sutter stands by them—a chemistry that means he gets the most out of his roster on more nights than he doesn’t. They are, you know, a team.
In case you missed the earlier link, there’s another one here.