Though it has been almost 35 years since the fabled “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team did what many thought impossible in defeating the Russians at Lake Placid, the books, stories and Disney’s Miracle make it seem like just yesterday. So it was with a shock that the hockey community learned of the death of one of the defensemen, Bob Suter, who made it onto Herb Brooks’ team and who would stand on top of that podium with the rest of that amazing team. The 57-year-old Madison, Wisconsin native is the first of the team to pass away, though head coach Herb Brooks died in a car accident in 2003.
Reports are that Suter died of a major heart attack while at the Capital Ice Arena in Middleton, Wisconsin—a rink he owned—on Tuesday, September 9. He also served in the capacity of an amateur scout for the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild issued the following statement this afternoon:
“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.”
Hockey ambassador seems an appropriate moniker for Suter and his family. Bob’s son Ryan Suter—with Zach Parise—signed matching, massive, 13-year, $98-million contracts in the summer of 2012 before the new collective bargaining agreement put limits on such lengths. And Bob’s brother Gary played in the NHL for 17 years and also represented the United States in the Olympics at both the Nagano games in 1998 and again at the Salt Lake City games in 2002.
In The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey, Suter’s brother Gary described Bob’s attitude on the ice.
“He was an abrasive [player],” he said. “He always had people chasing him around the ice. He was the sort of guy you hated playing against and loved having him on your team.”
Coaching the Madison Capitals, a youth program that was started by Bob’s father, he continued to share his love of hockey and guide young players. While some of the Miracle team moved away from hockey, for Suter, it continued to fill his life. It somehow seems fitting that he was at the arena when he suffered the heart attack.
USA Hockey, the organization that continues to grow hockey in the United States and is responsible for the teams that represent the United States in international competition, also issued their own statement about the loss:
“It’s a tough day for our sport, having lost a great friend and ambassador of the game. Bob Suter will always be remembered for his role as a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Team that captivated our country and whose impact is impossible to measure. His legacy, however, is far beyond that as he dedicated his life to advancing hockey and helping young people achieve their dreams. Bob’s positive impact on our sport will be felt for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Suter family at this difficult time.”
This is a terrible loss to his family. Hopefully the happiest of memories both on and off the ice will bring smiles to their lips when the tears sting their eyes.
On Wednesday, September 10, Ryan Suter–through the Minnesota Wild–issued the following statement:
“The sudden loss of my father has been difficult for myself and our family – my dad was my hero and he taught me about life, hockey and what was truly important – family. He will be missed greatly and his legacy and spirit will be with us every day. He lived with the motto “it’s all about the kids” and forever he will be remembered by this.
“My family and I also want to say thank you for the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from the hockey community around the world. It means a lot to us to know how much he was loved and will be missed.”