It's been a tough day for fans of international hockey. First came word of the passing of Seth Martin, a four-time top goaltender at the World Championships and the backstop of Canada's 1961 title team.
Now, we've learned that Bob Suter, a member of the “Miracle On Ice” team and the father of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died on Tuesday after apparently suffering a heart attack. The 57-year-old Suter is the first member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to pass away.
Suter was a hard-rock defenseman at the Lake Placid Games for the underdog American squad, which stunned the world by upsetting the heavily favored Soviet team in the semifinals and then went on to defeat Finland to clinch an unlikely gold medal.
Years later, Suter spoke of one of the perks of that victory: "From up in Lake Placid, they flew us down on one of the Air Force One planes,” he told The Tennessean. “We got royal treatment from the beginning, and then we met [President Carter] and had pictures and then we had a dinner.
“Going [to the White House was] one of the great moments [of my life]. It’s known all over the world, and to go visit it and see the history, it’s a great feeling.”
The 1980 Olympic tournament was the apex of Suter's career, as it was for so many of his teammates. He never played in the NHL, though he was drafted by both the Kings and the WHA's Birmingham Bulls. He rejected overtures from L.A. in the wake of his Olympic success and sat out a year before signing as a free agent with the Minnesota North Stars. He was cut in training camp and spent the entire season in the minors. Disillusioned, he retired in ’82 without playing a single game in the NHL. He returned to his home in Madison, Wisc., where he opened a sporting goods store and coached youth sports.
The NHL wasn't done with the Suter family, though. Bob's brother Gary spent 16 years in the league, winning the Calder Trophy in 1986 and the Stanley Cup three years later with the Flames. His son Ryan has established himself as one of the top defenseman in the game, following in his father's footsteps by playing for Team USA at the Olympics in 2010 and ’14.
Suter had hoped to watch his son play at the Winter Olympics in Sochi earlier this year, but concerns about security kept him home in Wisconsin.
"Everything is security, security. You know, it's just too bad that it takes away from the athletics and the sports and stuff," he told CBS News. "It just makes it maybe not as fun that you have to worry nowadays." Suter added that it would have been nice to see some of his old opponents from the 1980 USSR team in Sochi, but that such a meeting would have to wait for another time. Sadly, that's a chance he never got.