Professor Sutter's class of 06 has graduated with straight A's. In a spectacular graduation ceremony held Tuesday night at the Ralph Englestad Center for Hockey Excellence, Professor Sutter oversaw his pupils receive their golden diplomas in front of family, friends and a delirious nation watching from the North.
With his team's complete domination of the competition at this years World Junior Hockey Championship, Sutter can take great pride in a job well done. One after another in post game interviews the players would proclaim thanks and respect for their coach, from the early days of training camp evaluations to the pre tourney days of Winnipeg this team came together with one mission in mind, Gold!
Players would recount how he urged them to step up their game, check their egos at the door and buy into a system that seemed perfectly flawless from the opening face off of game one, right to the final buzzer of the Gold Medal game. Sutter never exhibited anything but confidence in his team and with good cause, for this was as impressive a squad as Canada has assembled in a long time.
Night after night, opposition coaches, media observers and hockey fans everywhere sang the praises of a team that seemed to fit together perfectly. Replays of game film will show player after player holding his position, making the hard clean hit at the right time. They never gave up too much ice and rarely left their goaltenders on their own. The offensive players came back and held their checks, the defensive players blocked shots without fear. Rare was the team that could engineer a two on one break, rarer still the player that dared to cross the blue line with a head down.
This was Sutter hockey played by a collection of players who took it to heart, hard nosed, determined and ultimately quite successful. One suspects that the hockey minds of the other nations were taking their notes, breaking down their film and examining a very successful template for victory. Like it has been in the past and now is again, the Canadian brand of hockey is one that stands the test of time.
This years grads will return to their distant outposts in the Q, OHL, Western or American Leagues. But they've forever formed a bond that will no doubt be tested in competition against each other, but will never be unbroken.
In post game interviews Sutter wasn't making any commitments to returning for next years Championships in Vancouver, but one hopes Hockey Canada knows a good thing when they've seen one. This was a well taught, disciplined group of young men who not only performed to a high level of ability but played with pride of nation and respect of the game. We surely cannot ask for anything more!
Sutter's school of Shinny was the tonic for the Hockey Nation. There are countless other students no doubt wishing to study the curriculum and take their own final exams! Here's hoping the Professor signs on for another semester.