Cup spends week with historic hockey families
This weekend should prove to be a special one as the Stanley Cup serves as the guest of honor on the historic Sutter family farm in Viking, Alberta. The property raised six brothers who played in the NHL in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, combining for an astonishing 4,994 games and 2,934 points.
When second-eldest brother Darryl Sutter earned his first Stanley Cup win as coach of the Los Angeles Kings, it meant hockey's most prolific family would be celebrating a championship for the first time since brothers Brent and Duane won one together playing for the New York Islanders in 1983.
But earlier this week, another of hockey's most famous families celebrated the end of an even longer drought.
Just four days before the Cup arrived in Viking, it spent an evening in Clear Lake, Manitoba with the family of Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall, who also is part of one of the NHL's great dynasties.
"I was up there a couple of weeks ago with his father, Bryan. I was pretty excited to have the Cup coming up," said Ron Hextall's uncle, Dennis, who played 13 seasons in the National Hockey League and whose father, Bryan Hextall Sr., won the Cup with the Rangers in 1940. "My father is on it from when they won the Cup. To have Ronald's name on it is great. Two Hextalls. It's great."
For a Hextall family that has become synonymous with hockey, the Cup's appearance in Clear Lake was a welcome return, especially considering Bryan Sr.' s 1940 win was the last one for the family. Not that the Hextalls haven't had opportunities to bring back the most famous trophy in sports.
Ron's father and Dennis' brother, Bryan Jr, played more than 500 games in the NHL, and Ron won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Philadelphia Flyers despite losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1987 Final. When Ron's son, Brett, was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, the family's hopes were partially pinned on him to bring the Cup back to Manitoba.
But with the Kings' win this summer, the family instead hopes simply to see Brett play in the NHL, which would make him the second fourth-generation NHL player, after Blake Geoffrion of the Montreal Canadiens.
"We thought Ronald had a real good chance [of winning the Cup] a few years ago when he was playing with Philly. They lost in Game 7," Dennis Hextall told NHL.com. "Then Ronald's son was drafted by Phoenix. He got called up [during the 2012 playoffs]. So he must be fairly high up in their organization. So it's a matter of him just getting an opportunity to get up to that League."
Though Brett didn't make an appearance during the Coyotes' run to the Western Conference Finals, he did tangentially face off against his father when Phoenix and Los Angeles met in the third round of the playoffs with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. Dennis Hextall admits that, because the younger Hextall wasn't playing, the family sided more with father over son. And following a magical day with the Cup in Clear Lake, the family is hoping to see the NHL debut of young Brett, who like his uncle Dennis is a University of North Dakota alum.
"We've discussed it," said Dennis Hextall, who can't help but mention another prolific hockey family that also just celebrated their day with the Cup. "Obviously you look at the Sutters, six brothers playing in the League. That's phenomenal."