Ryan Suter remembers a time when things weren’t so routine.
When the Minnesota Wild and Team USA defenseman was 16, he was selected his country’s captain for a Four Nations Tournament in Slovakia. It was the Madison, Wis., native’s first venture outside the United States.
Things were different then. He was young. Impressionable. Somewhat wide-eyed.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Suter jokes today.
A decade-and-a-half later, things are much more quotidian. The Twin Cities feel like home as the 30-year-old enters his 11th NHL season — the fourth in Minnesota, where he inked a long-term free-agent deal before the 2012-13 campaign. Most of his family members are a mere 3 ½ hours away in Wisconsin’s capital city. The only difference — and it’s a big one — is his father isn’t among them. Bob Suter, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” defenseman, died nearly a year ago.
Nevertheless, Ryan Suter spent his summer the same way he always does: skating at Madison’s Capitol Ice Arena (recently renamed Bob Suter’s Capitol Ice Arena) and helping his brother Garrett, who runs the place, with maintenance and upkeep.
That’s a lot of manual labor for a professional athlete making $11 million this season.
“Every summer, I go back,” said Suter, who had two goals and 36 assists last season, his second All-Star Game campaign. “The summers are pretty close to being the same. Just the details, working on being stronger and in shape, just maintaining the things that have gotten me here.”
His in-season surroundings are becoming more and more customary, too. For the second straight season, Minnesota brings back most of its core — built around Suter and Team USA teammate Zach Parise — from a team that faltered early, got hot late and lost to Chicago in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The trick this year, Suter said, is avoiding those early struggles. Sporting a 2-0 record so far, the Wild believe they’re built to make a deeper playoff push, especially with a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender in Devan Dubnyk.
That luxury eluded Minnesota during Suter’s first three years here.
“I think everyone has to be on,” said Suter, who’s played for Team USA in 11 international tournaments and hopes to make the roster for next year’s World Cup of Hockey. “Goaltending has to be good, defensemen have to be doing their position, doing their job. Forwards have to be playing at both ends of the ice, and the coaching staff has to be on. So it’s not just one guy doing it; it’s a team being consistent.”
But some things do change. With young defensemen Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon comprising one of hockey’s strongest blue-line groups, Suter is expected to see a slight decrease in ice time.
That’s not necessarily a knock against Suter.
It’s actually a move aimed at keeping him healthy for the long haul. Suter ranked first and second, respectively, in minutes in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Both seasons, he was visibly laboring by the time the postseason rolled around.
All in all, though, it’s a comfortable Suter who will celebrate his 31st birthday in January.
“There’s a lot of familiarity, and that’s a big thing. Not a lot of change,” said Suter, who has three assists through two contests. “That’s a good thing.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.