MEMORIES OF 1980: Duane Sutter
by Chris Botta
Duane Sutter's NHL career certainly got off to a whirlwind start. The World Hockey Association merger with the NHL forced the league draft all the way to August 9, when the Islanders took Sutter in the first round. Within a month, Duane was opening eyes (and perhaps blackening others) at his first Islanders training camp. He was sent to his WHL junior team in Lethbridge for 21 games, then came to the Islanders to stay.
"My first game was Nov. 30, 1979 in Edmonton," Sutter recalls, 26 years later but like it was yesterday. "What a way to start, on an unbelievable team, in the city of Edmonton and in front of my parents." Duane told us the Islanders lost, 5-3, but it wasn't until he was asked that he informed us he had two goals and an assist in his first NHL game.
Duane became known as "Dog" for his relentless style of play. He was an in-your-face player before the term became a regular part of the sports vernacular. By the end of the regular season of his rookie year, he was a mainstay on the Islanders, a part of the team. In 56 games he saw the highs and lows. Everyone remembers the championship. What a lot of people forget is that the Islanders struggled all year. In their 32nd game of the season, an 8-0 loss in Chicago dropped Al Arbour's squad to 12-14-6. Sutter saw it all that season.
"I remember having real mixed emotions on a day all of us will never forget -- the trade that got us Butchie Goring and put us over the top," said Sutter. "What I remember most is being real sad about it because Billy Harris had become such a close friend, a great leader for me."
The Celebration of the 1980 Stanley Cup Islanders on March 4 gives Sutter a chance to relish the moments one more time. He says that he can't wait to visit with so many of his old teammates that he rarely gets to see.
"Sometimes I wish I wasn't so young when the team had such incredible success," said Sutter. "I don't want anyone to think I didn't appreciate it back then, but as I get older I appreciate it even more. That was a very special time."
In his role as pro scout for the Florida Panthers, Duane does occasionally run into old teammates and re-live the early '80s.
"A few weeks ago I went to scout a game between the Devils and Bruins in Boston," said Sutter. "I get there and -- what do you know -- Kenny Morrow is scouting for the Islanders, Lorne Henning is there for Vancouver and Chico Resch is doing the game on TV. We had a great talk in the press room, I can tell you that."
There will plenty more on March 4.
The 1980 Stanley Cup celebration on March 4, presented by Modell's and Newsday, will begin at 7:00 pm, followed by the regular season matchup between the 2005-06 Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers. In addition to the 1980 team, the Stanley Cup will also be in attendance at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Islanders full season subscribers will receive an added treat. Season subscribers are invited to the Islanders' morning skate on March 4, followed by an introduction of the 1980 team, sneak preview of that night's ceremony, plus a meet-and-greet with the legends.
Tickets are still available for the March 4 game between the Islanders and Flyers, preceded by the celebration of the 1980 Stanley Cup team. Tickets are available at the Coliseum box office, TicketMaster or by contacting the Islanders at 1.800.882.ISLES.