Brent Sutter has accepted the offer to take charge of the Canadian team in this Septembers summit series between Canadian and Russian junior hockey players.
The recreation of the 1972 epic showdown will take us back to a special era in Canadian hockey and update it with the best Under nineteen players available. Like the 72 showdown the series will feature an eight-game circuit starting Aug. 27 and ending Sept. 9.
The teams will play four games in Russia first and then play the final four in Canada.
The selection of Sutter is another indication of the high regard that Hockey Canada has for the Red Deer Rebels owner, manager and coach. One of the hardest working coaches in junior hockey and a person that can squeeze the best out of his lineup on a consistent basis.
A trait that has become the thing of legend in Canadian hockey.
Summit Series inspired Sutter to coach Canada
CALGARY — Brent Sutter was a mesmerized Grade 5 student watching the 1972 Summit Series in the Viking school gym.
"It always came on in the first or second class in the morning," Sutter recalled Tuesday. "Not only did I love it because it was such a different thing, Canada playing Russia and how the series unfolded, but we got to miss classes too for the right reasons, because we got to watch hockey."
Thirty-five years later, Sutter has been asked to help re-create a little of the magic of that legendary eight-game series, in which Canada beat Russia on Paul Henderson's goal with 34 seconds left in the final game.
Sutter will coach a Canadian junior team of players aged 19 and under against its Russian counterpart in a Super Series later this summer to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Summit Series.
It's another eight-game circuit starting Aug. 27 and ending Sept. 9. The first four games are in Russia and the back half will be held in Canada. Those Canadian sites have yet to be announced.
"I remember how intense it was back in 1972," Sutter said. "I think that's what kind of pushed me to do it. You can never repeat that, but you don't ever forget what it was all about.
"They were pros, but now we're going to take the best young players and try and accomplish the same thing. We're going over there to win this series."
Sutter, who played 17 years in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders, coached Canada to back-to-back gold medals at the world junior championships of 2005 and 2006.
Craig Hartsburg, his assistant in 2006, kept that run of gold alive this year by coaching the country to another title in Sweden.
Hartsburg remains as head coach of Canada for the 2008 world junior championship in the Czech Republic.
So Sutter and Hartsburg are working together again on what is a joint project as many of the Canadian players in the Super Series will represent their country again at the world junior tournament that opens Dec. 26 in Pardubice and Liberec.
"You've got two staffs that want to work together for the same common goal," Sutter said. "The first goal is to try and win this series and from there, it will move onto the world juniors."
The Canadian roster for the Super Series will be chosen by Hockey Canada head scout Jim Hammett and will be announced next week.
The established relationship between Hartsburg and Sutter made the latter a natural fit to coach the Super Series team, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said.
"It was really important to have someone who was connected to Craig," Nicholson explained. "This certainly is Brent's team, but this is a huge evaluation for the world juniors at Christmas."
It was too much to ask Hartsburg to coach both teams, added Nicholson.
"People really have to understand the huge commitment it is to coach the team at Christmas time. You're away from your own team's preparation in the summer for a camp and the amount of time from September to December on phone calls with staff, putting the whole plan together, evaluating the players is tremendous. Then you're gone for just under a month to the world junior championships.
"To now be away from Aug. 20 to the beginning of September as well is too much to ask any of the coaches to do."
Sutter is owner, coach and general manager of the Red Deer Rebels. He and assistants Pete DeBoer of the Kitchener Rangers and Benoit Groulx of the Gatineau Olympiques will be away from their respective club teams at crucial times as the Olympiques' season will have started and the Rebels and Rangers will have camps underway.
Canada's junior team will not have its annual evaluation camp this summer.
"This is not a world junior camp," Sutter said emphatically. "This is an eight-game series that you're going to win. It will build and get bigger and bigger as it goes along. It'll get very hyped-up. It's our nation against theirs."
The logistics still have to be worked out, but Sutter would like to take his team to Russia a few days prior to the start of the series to give Canada time to prepare and recover from jet lag.
"There's going to be a lot of travel," Sutter observed. "You come back here and you're travelling to four different cities. It's going to be gruelling for the players. For the staff, we have to minimize that as much as we can."