‘Miracle on Ice’ defenseman Bob Suter dies at 57
By Chad Graff St. Paul Pioneer Press Bob Suter, a member of the Miracle on Ice team that won the 1980 Olympic gold medal and father of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack. Suter, a scout for the Minnesota Wild and...
By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Bob Suter, a member of the Miracle on Ice team that won the 1980 Olympic gold medal and father of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack.
Suter, a scout for the Minnesota Wild and youth hockey coordinator, was 57.
He devoted much of his life to the game he loved. After winning an NCAA national title with the University of Wisconsin in 1977, Suter won Olympic gold in 1980 as defenseman on the U.S. team that shocked Russia in the semifinals in Lake Placid, N.Y.
His professional playing days ended in 1982, and he spent much of the remainder of his life giving back to hockey.
The Madison native was a fixture in youth hockey in the region, operating a successful youth program known as the Madison Capitols based out of Capitol Ice Arena, which he co-owned, in Middleton, Wis.
Suter, according to the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison, was stricken at Capitol Ice Arena early Tuesday afternoon.
“He meant so much to hockey, and it meant so much to him,” said Bill Baker, an Olympic teammate. “He lived and breathed it.”
During Suter’s playing days, teammates loved to have him on their side -- and hated playing against him. As the 1980 team first gathered, players from Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth were wary of sharing a bench with Suter after years of WCHA battles.
But it didn’t take them long, they said, to learn to love Suter.
“When I think of Bob, I think first of playing against him when he was at Wisconsin and I was at Duluth,” 1980 teammate John Harrington said. “He never gave an inch.
He always gave it out better than he got it. Once you became a teammate of his, you realized he was a tremendous guy.”
His toughness, both physical and mental, was something of legend.
In November 1979, just a few months before the February Olympics in Lake Placid, Suter suffered a broken ankle. Baker said that doctors told Suter he’d be out six to eight weeks and put him in a cast. Players thought there was no way Suter would make the team because of the injury.
Instead, after three weeks, Baker said, Suter demanded doctors remove his cast and he joined practice the next day.
“You wanted to do whatever you could for him because you knew he’d do the same for you,” Baker said.
After his playing career, mentoring young hockey players became a big part of Suter’s life.
“All he cared about was kids being able to play hockey,” Harrington said. “He made a difference in a lot of players’ lives. He’s going to be missed.”
Two years ago, Suter began working in the scouting department of the Minnesota Wild, where his passion for the game was evident.
“Bob was a great person and a tremendous asset to our scouting staff,” said Brent Flahr, the Wild’s assistant general manager. “He loved the game of hockey, he had a genuine passion for scouting, and he had a quality eye for talent. He was extremely popular with our hockey operations staff and was a valuable resource for me personally.
“It’s a sad day for all of our staff. He will be greatly missed.”
Friends said Suter was always humble and looked out for others, and enjoyed his time at the rink more than his time in the spotlight.
His brother Gary and son Ryan followed him to Wisconsin and the NHL.
Well before then, Suter let Ryan, now a defenseman for the Wild, bring his 1980 gold medal to show-and-tell while in elementary school. At times, the medal would sit in Ryan’s locker for days on end before the youngster remembered to bring it home.
“Bob would be one of the last guys to let anybody know that he won a gold medal,” Harrington said. “He was just like, ‘This is what I do. I’ve had opportunities in hockey so I’m going to help other people, too.’ I don’t think having a gold medal ever changed him.”
U.S. Olympic teammate Mike Eruzione tweeted, “Sad news at the passing of Bob Suter a great teammate on 1980 Olympic team he will be missed by so many RIP.”
The Wild said in a statement: “We are very saddened by today’s news that Minnesota Wild Scout Bob Suter suddenly passed away. The Wild organization sends its condolences to the entire Suter family during this difficult time. Not only was Bob a great hockey ambassador, he was a terrific person off the ice who will be greatly missed by all of us.”