Darryl Sutter announces retirement from NHL coaching

Sutter sits top-12 all time with 635 wins as an NHL coach. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Should the Washington Capitals choose not to hire assistant Todd Reirden to be their coach, they needn’t call to ask about the availability of Darryl Sutter.

He’s finished as a coach.

We won’t go as far as to say he’s retired, as the 59-year-old rancher is up at the crack of dawn every morning, running his 3,000-acre farm in Viking, Ab.

But in terms of an NHL career that started in 1978 when he was drafted 178th overall, he’s happy to ride his tractor into the sunset with two Stanley Cups and a cabin full of memories.

"Forty years, that’s enough," said Sutter, 59, when asked if he’d consider the Washington gig that became vacant when Barry Trotz resigned following this month’s Stanley Cup win.

"No way, I’d be too far away from the grandkids."

That’s how it goes for coaches – they don’t retire, unless they are Scotty Bowman.

They simply fade away from the scene.

It was just one year ago Sutter was let go with GM Dean Lombardi as part of a clean sweep of the Los Angeles Kings’ front office.

He still had two years left on a deal paying him in excess of $3 million annually, which he earned after guiding the Kings to two Cup titles in three years. Upon signing that deal he balked at the suggestion it might be his last contract, saying, "I still have plenty of coaching left."

He kept his house on the beach in California until recently and said last summer he’d consider a return to coaching, "if it was the right situation."

He admitted that situation could have been found close to home had the Flames called this spring when Glen Gulutzan was replaced by Bill Peters.

"I would have listened for sure," said Sutter of a possible return to the organization he spent eight years with.

"Brad (Treliving) made a great choice in Bill, as did Todd (McLellan) in Edmonton, getting Gully to join."

He now insists following a winter of contemplation there’s no situation that could tempt him to leave his ranch to relocate once again with his wife, Wanda, and son, Chris.

"I love my schedule now – that’s the best way to put it," he said.

"I enjoy watching the game on TV and I pull for certain players and I’m totally at peace with not coaching.

That’s for sure."

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It should be noted Sutter left the game completely in 1995, following three years as head coach of a Chicago Blackhawks team he played all eight years of his NHL career for.

Chris had been born years earlier with Down syndrome and as passionate as Sutter has always been about the game, he just felt he needed to be home.

Two years later he was back, coaching San Jose for a six-year stint that ended late in 2002 when his firing led to a three-year coaching gig in Calgary, where he helped guide all the lads playing with Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff to the Cup final in his second year.

"You know, when you lose a Game 7 in the Cup final you’re almost tied to it and want to win one even more after that," said Sutter, who distinctly remembers being the last one to leave the dressing room in Tampa Bay alongside Iginla that night.

"It’s motivating."

After a three-and-a-half year run as the Flames GM, Sutter resigned before Christmas 2010, exactly eight years to the day after he joined the Flames.

He returned to the game mid-season the next year as coach of the Kings, barely getting his team into the playoffs before beating the top three seeds and hoisting his first Cup.

Two years later, in 2014, he did it again.

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Sutter sits top-12 all time with 635 wins as an NHL coach and he did it by continually pushing and challenging his players beyond what made many of them comfortable.

What motivates him now are his grandkids and ranching.

His daughter and her young family live in nearby Edmonton while his son Brett lives in Calgary with his family.

Asked what time he wakes up every morning, Sutter chuckled.

"When the sun comes up," said Sutter, who used to hire farmhands to run his cattle and hay operation while he was away coaching.

"We’re doing it all ourselves now."

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Sutter said he struggled at first to watch NHL games on TV following his latest dismissal, but now says he looks forward to tuning in.

That said, he prefers to watch the locals live at the Carena Complex, where he and his six brothers grew up playing before a 2007 fire prompted a rebuilt facility.

Inside it are jerseys of all six Sutter brothers who played in the NHL.

"Quite honest, I like watching the kids around town in Viking – I really like that," said Sutter, whose home is built on the same land as the family homestead where his mother, Grace, still lives.

"It’s a good life. I’m happy."

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