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updated: 6/13/2012 10:37 PM

Why the Stanley Cup brings tears before cheers

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  • For Kings coach Darryl Sutter, it was an emotional night Monday when he finally got to hoist the Stanley Cup as a champion.

      For Kings coach Darryl Sutter, it was an emotional night Monday when he finally got to hoist the Stanley Cup as a champion.
    Associated Press

 
 

Why do they cry?

It's the same question I get from my girls each June after the winning captain is handed the Stanley Cup.

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Why do the biggest, meanest, toughest hockey players cry?

The simplest way to answer that is, it's just so hard.

It is just so unbelievably hard to win the Stanley Cup.

Take the case of one Darryl Sutter, who was drafted in the 11th round with the 179th pick by the Blackhawks in 1978.

He was such a big prospect that he began his professional career in Japan, where no one knew they even played hockey at the time, and where he was named rookie of the year.

At 5-feet-11 and 175 pounds, with absolutely no skating ability, Sutter was overmatched in the NHL in every way -- except work ethic.

You could not outwork Darryl Sutter.

He scored 40 goals in his first NHL season but lost the Rookie of the Year award to Peter Stastny, who had played five "amateur" seasons in the Czech professional league by the time he arrived in the NHL.

The Hawks of the '80s probably would have won a Cup or two if they hadn't run into a guy named Wayne Gretzky, whose Edmonton Oilers owned the decade.

"All those stinkin' conference finals. It was always the Oilers, the Oilers, the Oilers," Sutter said last week. "You always thought maybe the next year you would be good enough. Obviously, we weren't."

A playing career built on effort was cut short -- to only seven years -- by injuries too numerous to mention. Though his knees were ravaged, when you think of Sutter you remember a Doug Wilson laser beam deflected into Sutter's face in front of the net, leaving him strapped to a hospital bed for days.

When it came to the Stanley Cup, Sutter worked his farm during the day and watched on TV at night as his brothers Duane and Brent won six Cups between them in four years with the Islanders.

Each time the brothers brought the Cup home to their small Canadian town, Darryl smiled and supported them, attending parades and parties -- while feeling completely empty inside.

As a coach, he was an assistant in Chicago when the Hawks lost to Pittsburgh in the 1992 Finals, and as head coach in Calgary the Flames lost the Cup in seven games to Tampa in '04.

The L.A. Kings were going nowhere in December when Darryl Sutter took over. They were the eighth seed going into the tourney. They beat the top three Western Conference seeds in the first three rounds.

You practice and play for 10 months to get to the Finals. You know you may never get back there. You know the team that tries the hardest usually wins in hockey. You sweat and you bleed and you risk limbs and lives to win a single shift.

You think of your mom driving you to the rink at 5 a.m., day after day, week after week, year after year.

All for this, all for the dream of just one time lifting that Cup, a Cup you refuse to even touch until you deserve to touch it as your own.

And then one day the impossible happens and it is handed to you, and there are no words to describe that journey, when your life finally feels complete.

That's why Darryl Sutter cried -- because at that moment there simply are no words.

Hockey 101

There has been a sudden desire to translate the Kings' victory into something the Hawks should now understand, but it's really nothing new.

Two years running, the biggest team that finished its checks and took the puck away off physical play has won the Cup. Furthermore, the final four teams this year all played that way, believing also that you can't lose the game if the opposition can't score, since it's the one thing you can control in a hockey game.

None of this is new. It's happened five of the seven years since the lockout. It's just that sometimes in the midst of puck-possession teams like the Red Wings and Hawks winning Cups, people forget the easiest path to travel.

The line

Odds on winning the 2013 Stanley Cup: Penguins (7-1), Kings (10-1), Blues (11-1), Canucks (12-1), Hawks (13-1), Red Wings (14-1), Rangers (15-1), Flyers (16-1) and Bruins (20-1).

Santo DVD

If you're looking for a Father's Day gift, you might consider a special edition DVD of "This Old Cub" at santofilms.com.

It's an updated version of the 2003 film about Ron Santo with the final interviews of his life conducted in the weeks before his death. The new film also chronicles all that occurred in his life since 2003 and everything that's happened since his passing.

U.S. Open

The setup at Olympic is absolutely brutal, to be kind, perhaps a USGA response to Rory McIlroy's 16 under a year ago, the lowest score ever at a U.S. Open.

The guess here is that 4-over par has an excellent chance to win this tournament, as it's playing harder than Oakmont (2007) when Angel Cabrera won at plus-5.

Playing aggressive is a terrible strategy this week, so some longshots to keep an eye on are Steve Stricker (35-1), Jim Furyk (35-1), Louis Oosthuizen (40-1), Charl Schwartzel (55-1), Graeme McDowell (55-1) and Elmhurst's Mark Wilson (150-1).

Dream Team

If you missed the NBA-TV special Wednesday night, it's running several more times this week and worth every moment of the 90 minutes.

The quote

After hitting a monstrous home run Tuesday night in Toronto, Bryce Harper was asked after the game if he was going to have a celebratory beer since it's legal for 19-year-olds to drink in Canada. Said Harper, "I'm not answering that. That's a clown question, bro."

He gone

Miami Herald's Greg Cote: "Knicks guard Jeremy Lin won trademark rights to the word 'Linsanity.' Anybody have the heart to tell Jeremy his 15 minutes are already up?"

And finally …

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel: "There's a great tradition in hockey. Each player on the winning team gets the Stanley Cup for a night. It's similar to what happens in the NBA, but instead of a trophy they get a Kardashian sister."

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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