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Ryan Suter was bought out of the last four years of his contract.
It’s been an incredible week for sports, with the Olympics and the Twins having their ups and downs, and with so many major events to write about.
But most of them, we’ll have to deal with later. Those include the U.S. women’s soccer team losing 1-0 to Canada in the Olympic semifinals, and the awesome performance of St. Paul’s Suni Lee, following the stunning departure of Simone Biles, everybody’s pick as the “greatest of all time,” and a perfect example of why they play the games. She returned to win a bronze, and a newfound appreciation that there is more to life than sports.
There also was the trade of Jose Berrios to Toronto, where the Blue Jays can now make a serious run at a pennant with an ex-Twins pitcher who was, without doubt, our “Ace.” Berrios threw six shutout innings to complete a sweep over Kansas City in Toronto’s first allowed home series of the season, striking out seven and walking one while spacing five hits.
And Nelson Cruz hitting a home run or two for Tampa Bay after being another famous “ex-Twin.”
Also the surprising resignation of Jackie MacMillan, the only women’s hockey coach St. Scholastica has ever known – coupled with the elevation of former UMD two-time national championship defenseman Julianne Vasichek from assistant to head coach.
Then on Tuesday we heard that UMD softball coach Jen Walters had also resigned, and in her case it is to move to St. Thomas University as an assistant coach of the new Division I program.
Later. Those things can come later. For now, I am going to reprint an amazing letter to Minnesota Wild fans, and Minnesotans in general, from Ryan Suter, who, along with Zach Parise, was bought out of the last four years of his contract and cut adrift from hockey, where he had been the cornerstone of a rock-solid defense for nine seasons.
Hockey mad “observers” of the game have raved about general manager Bill Guerin’s prophetic foresight in making such moves and moving the Wild off in a new direction, whereas I’m not sure yet if he can comprehend the Minnesota hockey culture, and I’m wondering if he’s not posturing to become the next Superintendent of Duluth Public Schools.
This letter was published widely, by hockey newsletters, websites, and even USA Today, and it was circulated via social media so much in the past week that I’ve forwarded it to friends and hockey folks in California, Washington, Maryland and elsewhere, in hopes of stifling the absurd statements people are making, spreading rumors that Suter was a terrible influence in the locker room.
Those people have not been in the Wild dressing room, and I have. Players disappear to a separate dressing area with only those requested by the media returning to be interviewed. Ryan Suter was rarely called by the media, which seeks only hot-shot scoring stars or goaltenders, usually. He is quiet, and as far as I’ve witnessed, an outstanding person.
But then, I knew his dad. And you can make up your own mind, after reading this:
“OK, this is not going to be easy,” Suter’s carefully worded farewell began.
“You guys know me. I’m not a big talker. I usually just like to let my actions do the talking. It’s my dad’s way, what he taught me, how I was raised. So I’m not sure how good of a job I’m going to be able to do putting everything into words. But please stick with me here because I really do just want to write something out to convey how appreciative my family and I are for the kindness, friendship and love you’ve all shared with us over the past decade.
“Most of all, I want to say two words: Thank you.
“Before I really dig in here and do that, though, I’m wondering if you guys will indulge me for a second and let me tell you about an absolutely perfect moment that I experienced a few years back. A moment I will never forget as long as I live.
“A Minnesota moment if there ever was one.
“It happened at our home out on the lake. I remember that it was an off day. I’d gotten in late from a game the night before, and I woke up that morning and realized … everything was just really, really quiet.
“Now, remember, we have four kids. It’s never quiet. So, of course, I’m thinking: Is something wrong? What’s going on?...I head downstairs and find my wife, Becky.
“It’s like: ‘Hey, where is everyone?’
“And Becky, she doesn’t say anything. Not a word. She just gives me this little smile and tilts her head, motioning to our back windows. I trudge over to the windows – still kinda wiping the sleep from my eyes – and look out back and….
What I see, for a Minnesota Dad, it’s the coolest sight in the entire world. Our two oldest, Brooks and Avery, they’re out back on the lake. Skating. Laughing. Just...basically having the time of their lives. They’re out there doing their thing before school. “Before Dad was even out of bed! Doing what they love – what we all love – without anyone telling them to do it. Without a care in the world.
“After about 30 seconds of watching them have fun together out there, Becky and I both just kind of looked at each other, and...we didn’t have to say a thing. We just shared this look like, ‘How great is this!’ You know what I mean? Like, ‘This is the best life imaginable.’
“I cherish that moment – everything about it, really.
“And I’m sure some of you reading this have probably experienced something like that with your kids or grandkids at one point or another in your own backyard, or out on the neighborhood pond or whatever it may be. So you know why it’s so magical. You know that feeling. And you know that...It really doesn’t get any better.
“I’ve been thinking about that moment a lot these past few weeks because, to me, it goes way beyond just hockey. It really says something about this place, the people here, and the lives we lead. And, in some ways, it gets at why it’s going to be so hard for us to move on.
“I love hockey more than anything. It’s in my blood. That’s a given. But the truth is, this move – this giant shift in my career, and in the lives of everyone in my family – what makes it so tough has almost nothing to do with hockey.
“It’s about people. Relationships. Home.
“Me, Becky, and all four of our children, we’ve built our lives in this community, and for the past nine years it’s been the best place in the world for us all. Becky, she’s from Minnesota. This place, it’s in her bones. And our kids? Our oldest, Brooks, he was two when we arrived in town. He doesn’t remember anything before we got here. Our three other kids? They were all born in Minnesota. Our youngest, Beau, he had his first skate out on the lake this past year.
“This place, you all, you’re their everything.
“And you’ve been so good to us all from the very start.
“We’ve built our lives in this community, and for the past nine years it’s been the best place in the world for us all.
“When I signed here with Zach in 2012, there was so much excitement bubbling up for this franchise. You could really feel the energy in the community everywhere you went.
“But as an athlete, for better or worse, I’ve always kind of been conditioned to keep my guard up. It’s just really hard to know whether people are being nice to you because you’re a hockey player, or if they really like you as a person, you know what I mean? So the tendency sometimes is to pull back or really maintain your privacy. You worry about showing your true self, or opening up too much.
“But you guys? You changed all that for me. You really, really did. Early on, I took Brooks to hockey practices at different rinks around the city. And, at first, I’d just kind of stand over in the corner, off to myself.
“You guys weren’t having it, though. You brought me in. You welcomed me and my entire family in with open arms. And it had nothing to do with what I did for a living. It was simply about helping the new hockey dad and his family feel like part of the crew. The same thing happened with Little League ball, too.
“Before I knew it, I had about a dozen close friends – people who, to this day, are some of my dearest friends in the world. And it was so cool to go to the rink or ball field for games or practices, and then head over to The Hilltop or Bunny’s with the whole crew and just hang out together.
“Everything about it felt so completely right.
“Then, in what seemed like a flash, there were ride swaps being set up for practice, and cookouts at our place, and Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan shows at Target Field with a group of friends, and Little League tournaments, and just all those things you hope to find in your community as a young family.
“The relationships you all built with us were strong from the very start, and, as corny as it sounds, sometimes Becky and I would just sit up at night after the kids were in bed and tell stories and talk about how lucky we were to be in such a perfect place.
“Our family … we did not see this coming. None of us. Not in a million years. I really thought I was going to retire in Minnesota.
“So when the call came in about the buyout, I was basically in shock. I remember I was actually at a loss for words on the phone and barely even said anything before hanging up. I was in Madison, just about to step out on the ice for a workout, and I was kind of a wreck after getting that news. I quickly tried calling Becky, who was with Brooks and Beau in Minnesota for a baseball tournament. She didn’t pick up, so after my skate, I texted her with the news, and by that point she’d already heard. That’s just life in 2021, right?
“But her response? Short and sweet. You know that muscle emoji? The arm making a bicep curl? It was just that, and I think she said something like, ‘We got this.’
“And that was it. It was exactly what I needed in that moment, too. I mean...exactly.
“I was kind of a wreck after getting that news. Then, though, we had to tell the kids.
“Playing hockey in the NHL is hard. But it’s honestly nothing compared to having to tell your children that you’re moving to a new city – new house, new schools, new friends, new everything.
“And the weirdest thing is, you don’t even know where yet.
“That night, I took our two daughters out to dinner, and I did my best to explain what was going on. At first, their reaction was the same as mine. Like, Why? That shouldn’t happen. How can this be? I thought you told us you couldn’t be traded. So it took a while to explain it all. And, I’m not gonna lie, it had me really sad.
“But, once again, the people here, all you guys reading this … you all picked me up. When I say that I received hundreds of calls and texts from friends that day, I’m not even exaggerating. It was literally hundreds – neighbors, hockey moms and dads, people from the arena I’d grown close to over the years, parents from our kids’ preschools we’ve built bonds with, just everyone. It almost seemed like the whole community was hitting me up. It really helped me get through.
“And those texts? They weren’t about hockey, either. It was just … life stuff. Showing support, sharing some love, reminiscing. Those messages made me feel better about everything because I felt like maybe they signify that I’ve touched people’s hearts during my time here, and that I’ve been a good person to all of you. That’s what I value above all else. (It’s another thing I learned from my dad – by watching him and how he treated everyone – and I just hope I did him proud during my time in Minnesota.)
“Looking back on my time with the Wild, I definitely wish we could’ve brought a Cup home. But I’m proud of all the winning we did. I’m proud of all those playoff seasons. I feel like we all had a lot of fun together.
“And just the incredible number of guys that I had the opportunity to meet and play with, it really has been wonderful. I got to play with Dany Heatley, who was at Wisconsin when I was younger, and Matt Cullen, and just all these other top-flight people. And then, just me and Zach being able to be cornerstones here for so long, that’s something I’ll always cherish.
“Even though it wasn’t our choice to move on, nothing can put a damper on how incredible our time has been here. You all have given me and my family so much. So we just truly want to thank everyone who has been a part of our lives for the past nine years.
“Those memories we made together will always be in our hearts. Even though it wasn’t our choice to move on, nothing can put a damper on how incredible our time has been here. Now, of course, the hope is to go down to Dallas and just add on as many new memories and experiences as we can.
“Me, Becky, and the kids, we’re treating this as a family adventure. We’re going to have as much fun as we possibly can, doing it, too.
“And me? As a player? I know how rare and special this opportunity is, believe me. I know that teams don’t just give out four-year contracts to 36-year-olds like it’s nothing. The fact that the Stars are showing this kind of faith in who I am as a player, and also, hopefully, in who I am as a leader in the locker room...that means the world to me. Especially after feeling so down about how things ended here.
“What Dallas is doing, the faith they’ve shown in me? It’s not something I take lightly. So I’ll be excited and ready to go once we get down there. The Stars have a really good team, and I know a bunch of those guys from playing with and against them over the years. It should be a very smooth transition on the ice.
“And beyond that, Dallas is also just a city that I’ve always loved visiting. It’s a beautiful place, and it will all be brand new to our family. So I can’t wait to start this next chapter with the Dallas Stars.
“But here’s the thing, Minnesota. And this is a promise. This letter, it’s not a goodbye. It’s more like a thank you, and we love you, and we’ll see you soon!
“Because after I hang ’em up, we’re coming back. Back to Minnesota. Back to a place that we all love. Our place.
“Back home.” - Ryan Suter
While I’m allowed to question whether Guerin has yet to comprehend Minnesota’s hockey culture, I think that message indicates there is no question that Ryan Suter gets it.