‘I feel as good as I ever have’: Sutter reflects ahead of 1000th AHL game

Calgary Wranglers captain Brett Sutter is set to join rarefied company on Wednesday night when he suits up for his 1,000th American Hockey League game.

“I always tell the young guys, just enjoy every day because it goes by in a blink of an eye — and it really has,” Sutter said. Wise words from the man dubbed ‘dad’ by the youngest of the Flames farm team.

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He’s only the eighth player in league history to hit the 1,000 game milestone.

“Good chance to look back and reflect and think about some of the good memories and teammates and the good times and the bad times and, yeah, people that have helped you along the way,” Sutter said. “To be part of a small list of people that have done this in this league is a pretty special moment for myself and my family.”

The 35-year-old blueliner hit the 1,000 professional games played milestone thanks to his 60 NHL caps back in February, but restrictions prevented family from traveling to take in the big moment.

Back on home turf, it’s a different story this time around.

Sutter was surprised on Wednesday morning with a trip for his family to travel to Ontario to watch his beloved Blue Jays in the summer, and he plans to have more than 40 friends and family members in attendance for the evening’s pre-game ceremony.

Read more: Flames enter into multi-year contact extension with head coach Darryl Sutter

His father, Flames Head Coach Darryl Sutter — who infamously drafted and traded Brett while serving as Calgary’s General Manager — is on a California road trip, but got in touch with his son to talk about the achievement.

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“In the hockey life he has to miss a lot of stuff but I know he’s going to be here in spirit and he’s cheering me on,” Sutter added.

As to whether the very famous name on the back of his jersey has been a helper or a hindrance, the veteran shrugs it off.

“That’s the only thing I’ve ever known. You try to carve your own path and be your own person and player. It’s great to have them as a support system and people you can talk to and lean on, but at the end of the day, I am who I am and I just kind of come to the rink and be that player.”

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While his role as a player has evolved over the years, his leadership and level of respect across the league is undisputed.

Sutter has worn a letter for four different AHL teams, the only exception being the Quad City Flames and Abbotsford Heat when he was in his late teens and early 20s.

Read more: Flames enter into multi-year contact extension with head coach Darryl Sutter

He captained the Ontario Reign for five of his seven seasons with the L.A. Kings affiliate.

Fittingly, he’ll hit the milestone playing against the Reign with the organization that drafted him in the sixth round, 179th overall, back in 2005.

“It feels like just yesterday I was drafted as a 17-year-old kid and, yeah, it’s pretty special come back to an organization where I get to have a lot of family and friends in the crowd tonight, which is amazing,” Sutter — who scored the game-winning goal against his former club on Tuesday — added. “Then looking over on the other bench last night, it was great to beat them but it was also cool that they can be a part of this night with me.”

To be clear, this is no hero’s farewell.

Sutter has some miles in him yet — and a major goal yet to be achieved.

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“A championship is the one thing I haven’t done yet, so to be able to come here and chase it with this group is pretty special,” Sutter said.

“I feel as good as I ever have this year.”

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