Guy Gaudreau, Darryl Sutter carbon copies of each other

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Guy Gaudreau and Darryl Sutter are cut from the same cloth.

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They were both raised on farms—Sutter, on the family ranch near Viking, Alta., southeast of Edmonton, with his six other brothers; and Gaudreau and his three brothers growing up in Beebe Plain, Vt., near the US-Canada border.

They both coach hockey — Sutter, obviously, with the Calgary Flames at the National Hockey League level and Gaudreau with the Philadelphia Flyers Elite under-14 triple-A program.

And they both shoot from the hip.

“He’s like me,” said Guy of Sutter, chatting near the Zamboni entrance at Scotiabank Saddledome prior to Tuesday’s morning skating. “An old-time guy. Don’t frill. If you want to complain, don’t complain to me, I don’t want to hear your complaints.

“You play for the team, or you don’t play at all.”

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It’s that mentality that has driven Guy’s eldest son, Johnny, his entire life.

And it’s that mentality from Sutter that has Johnny playing the best NHL hockey of his career, surrounded by a cast of characters that have been a big reason why the Flames winger was on the verge of his first 100-point season on Tuesday — shooting for the milestone with his wife Meredith in the stands along with his parents Guy and Jane who are currently visiting the city for the first time since well before the pandemic.

Hard working. Boots (skates) to the ground (ice). Get the job done. Team-first?

Sound familiar?

“He was a farmer growing up, my dad,” Johnny was saying on Tuesday morning. “He milked cows before school and after school, he had to do it too. His younger siblings of him were a little better at sports than him because he was always out on the farm. So I guess that’s similar. He was always hard on me, growing up. If I played bad, he was hard on me.

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“I think that’s why I play well under coaches who demand a lot from their players, because I kind of grew up that way.”

It’s been a minute since Calgary’s favorite family has seen Johnny play in person at the Saddledome. They’ve been mainstays, periodically, in the city throughout his eight-year career with the Flames along with his sisters Kristen and Katie. (Younger brother Matty has had a tougher time getting to the ‘Dome due to his own pro hockey pursuits).

Guy and Jane watched all of Johnny’s games on TV after the NHL’s restart during the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019-20 campaign and watched him throughout the pandemic bubble of 2021 when the Flames were playing in the all-Canadian division in front of empty arenas — which, according to Guy, “was like watching men’s league games.”

But they hadn’t been to Calgary since late 2019 or, as Jane put it on Twitter, “It’s been 818 days since we have been in Calgary.”

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A lot has changed since then, most notably the not-so-familiar face that is now behind the Flames’ bench (again). The team has nearly amassed 100 points and is looking like a formidable opponent heading into the final 10 games of the season.

In Johnny’s first go-round under the notoriously tough-as-nails Sutter as head coach, it’s gone better than, perhaps, some have anticipated.

Yet according to Guy, father really does know best — he knew all along Johnny would succeed under Darryl’s watch.

“When Darryl Sutter was first hired, people said, ‘Oh, John will never make it,’” Guy said with a grin. “I said to my wife, ‘You wait. He’ll play his best hockey from him.’ Because I know what kind of person he is. She said to me, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Believe me, I know my son.’”

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That accountability — in life and in hockey — was just what his son needed. It was, apparently, what a lot of players on the Flames needed this season, judging by the way the club has performed during the 2021-22 campaign.

And it’s why Guy sees a lot of himself in Sutter: because it’s what drives his coaching philosophy, too.

“They’ve gotta be called out, these guys,” Guy noted. “They’re pros but they’re still people. If you let him get away with something, they’re going to get away with more and more and more. So, you’ve gotta challenge them. Everybody’s gotta be on the same page and the same playing grounds. If you’re not playing the right way…”

Then Guy (or Darryl) will tell ’em.

“Parents didn’t like me very much,” Guy said with a chuckle. “If I felt a kid was better suited to playing defense, I’d make him play defense even though the parents wanted him to play offense. After the kids were done playing for me after two, three, four years, the parents would acknowledge that I did the right thing for their son.”

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Which is along the same lines of what Sutter has done for his own son, ever since he was hired midway through the 2020-21 campaign to replace Geoff Ward and took over the team for the last 30 games of the pandemic-shortened season.

And through 73 regular-season games in 2021-22.

“(Johnny) loves (Sutter),” Guy said. “He says, ‘You don’t want to go in there and complain because he won’t listen to you.’ You play. Or you don’t play. And he’s not scared to tell you that you sucked.”

Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau and his dad Guy after practice on January 3, 2020.
Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau and his dad Guy after practice on January 3, 2020. Photo by Dean Piling /post media

Kind of like when Johnny was set to play his 500th NHL contest last season — an amazing feat for a player who was once seen as undersized and was never seriously projected to make the NHL.

“Hopefully he has more energy than his 499th game,” Sutter deadpanned.

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Shots fired.

And the message, apparently, was received.

“John said something to me about (Sutter’s comment) and I said, ‘Well, he was right,’” Guy said with a chuckle. “And he said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. He was right.’”

Remember, said Guy, a coach isn’t trying to win a popularity contest.

“(Sutter) doesn’t care if they like him or don’t like him,” Guy said. “He just wants them to play the way they’re supposed to play. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“He can back it up with his records and what he’s done. If you don’t like it, well…”

Johnny explains that his memory of his Dad coaching him is a bit foggy.

But he DOES remember …

“He was a great Dad off the bench,” Johnny said. “And a pain in the butt on the bench.”

Twitter: @KdotAnderson

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