The ballroom on the north end of Red Deer’s Black Knight Inn had many notable hockey jerseys on display
Thursday evening, hoping to attract generous bids during a silent auction.
And, there were some notable jerseys all, of course, signed by the National Hockey League player which brings them to life. There was one from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Edmonton Oilers forward who played for the Red Deer Rebels, two more from the Vancouver Canucks twins, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and a Gordie Howie No. 9 Detroit Red Wings epic.
All have significant meaning.
Then, there was one in the center of the room that had a special connotation, and, one had to seriously question if that jersey represented why we were gathered on a beautiful July central Alberta evening.
It was a white jersey, with red and blue markings, and a cartoon of a cowboy with a handkerchief over his face, chaps, and twirling a pistol in each hand the other hand.
In nice lettering reads “Rustlers,” as in the Red Deer Rustlers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
But, this is not, alas, a hockey story. It’s about a family of seven brothers who got their start in Red Deer four decades ago, and continue to make a mark in the community.
You may have heard the family name: Sutter. Their stories is part of NHL fabric.
Six brothers — Brian, Daryl, Brent, Duane, Rich and Ron — traveled the 220 km from the family farm east of Viking to Red Deer to play junior hockey, dating back to 1972. Their other brother, Gary, didn’t play — but was very supportive of his brothers, who eventually had careers in the NHL.
For the past 23 years now, the Sutter brothers return to Red Deer for two days of the most entreating storytelling, thousands of handshakes and hearty slaps on the back.
And, oh yes: 18 holes of golf at the River Bend Golf Club.
Since the first gathering get together, the Sutter Fund has raised more than $4 million for a myriad of Red Deer community organizations.
Sure, they have connections from their hockey professions and for their skill, toughness and competitiveness.
But they also have countless fans who admire and, more importantly, respect them because the way they treat people.
In looking around the room Thursday night, you could see the next Sutter generation unconsciously getting ready to extend the family name and their spirit in the decades to come.
ach of us have great stories of people who have become successful and return to where they honed their skills.
But to see it, year after year, from a family who continues to honour — and profoundly help — a community they grew up in is still remarkable. The Sutter example can shine for many.
I’m not sure who the highest bidder was for the Red Deer Rustler jersey, but they need to know how special it is.
Because it boldly represents how families in Alberta do things … and how where we come from is never forgotten.