Hundreds attend funeral for Louis Sutter

The community of Viking, Alta., paid a final tribute Tuesday to one of the greatest hockey dads Canada has ever known.

Louis Sutter loved his farm, country music and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Even when one of his son's team squared off against the Leafs, the hard-working father still remained loyal to the blue and white.

"The uncles all swore that he cheered for them (Leafs) even when they were playing against them," remembered his granddaughter Jessica Sutter.

Sutter's funeral, which was held at a community hall, was overcrowded by hundreds of farmers and people from nearby towns.

Hockey celebrities including Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe, Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, Florida Panthers coach Mike Keenan, Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald and a busload of players from the Calgary Flames all came to pay their last respects to the patriarch of the Sutter family.

When Rev. Kevin Bruvold addressed the hall's 650 people, many more were standing along the three walls and the back.

Sutter, 73, died Thursday after an extensive illness and dialysis treatments. His poor health didn't allow him to attend Calgary's Stanley Cup run with his son Darryl at the helm.

During his eulogy, Sutter's grandson Shaun said his grandfather never quit at anything he set his mind to.

"When granddad got sick he said he wanted to get better so he could put the crop in. Then, when he rented the cropland out, he said he was just going to put the hay up. Then, he said he was going to get better so he could plow snow around the yard and check cows at the pasture.

"He never quit at anything. Even in his last days, we were amazed at his strength and determination."

During the 1980s, a record six Sutter brothers played in the NHL for five seasons. The 2000-01 season was the silver anniversary of at least one Sutter playing in the NHL.

Gary, the oldest brother, was the only one that didn't play in the league. However, that didn't stop him from winning a $10-million lottery prize with co-workers at a lumber company in Kelowna, B.C.

All six brothers played a total of 4,994 regular season games and an additional 603 playoff games. The brothers also scored 1,320 goals, added 1,615 assists and complied 7,224 penalty minutes.

Louis Sutter once explained that he never learned to play the game because he lived too far from town.

However, his 560-hectare farm housed the values that his sons took to heart. All six brothers often said that it was their dad's lessons they learned about determination and commitment that allowed them to have success in the NHL.

Many stories have been told about the Sutter boys playing an endless amount of hockey inside their big red barn.

The Sutters, legends in their town of 1,100 people, have a mural that is displayed in the town arena.

A sign featuring a hockey stick and puck sits on the road into Viking and proudly proclaims: Home of the Sutters.

Louis Sutter's work at the farm always took precedent over the NHL playoffs, even when one of his sons was playing. Planting the crops always came first.

The contribution he and his wife Grace made to Canadian hockey will be difficult to duplicate.

with files from Canadian Press