Commentary

Another Suter, another 'Miracle'?

Updated: August 18, 2009, 6:14 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

WOODRIDGE, Ill. -- Back in the day, Ryan Suter's teachers would sometimes ask if he would bring in his dad's Olympic gold medal.

No problem, he would say.

"Growing up, my teachers, they wanted me to bring in his gold medal and show it off for show and tell. I was like, all right, yeah, I'll bring it in and I'd leave it in my locker overnight, forget it there," Suter said with a laugh Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic orientation camp. "I'd get home, my dad's asking, 'So, have you got that medal?' I'd say, 'Ah, I forgot it at school.'"

It's not that Suter gave little regard to the gold medal his father Bob won as part of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team, but rather it was simply part of growing up in the Suter household.

In some ways, Olympic success is in the Suter DNA.

Bob Suter won gold with the most famous Olympic team in American history. Ryan's uncle and Bob's brother, Gary Suter, was the NHL's rookie of the year and won a silver medal with the U.S. at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. He also played for the Americans in Nagano in 1998.

Ryan, the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, has slowly but surely blossomed into an elite NHL defenseman and is a virtual lock to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.

"He's certainly on track to be one of the best defensemen in the NHL," suggested David Poile, assistant GM of the U.S. Olympic team and the man who drafted Suter into the Nashville Predators organization.

Although he's just 24, Suter will be entering his fifth NHL season.

Although his evolution has been overshadowed somewhat by the rising star of defense partner Shea Weber, who will be at the Canadian orientation camp next week, Suter has developed into a steady all-around blueliner.

There are interesting familial connections throughout this three-day orientation camp.

Paul Stastny, another lock for the U.S. team, is the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, who was, for a time, the man in charge of Slovakia's Olympic efforts and a legend in that country.

Zach Parise, the top American-born forward in the NHL last season, is the son of J.P. Parise, who was a member of the Canadian team that bested the Russians in the epic 1972 Summit Series.

But it is Suter who has the strongest connection to America's defining hockey moment, that miracle win over the Russians in 1980 that was followed by a victory over Finland in the gold-medal game.

That team grows even more mythic with each passing day, fading further and further from remembered reality. Of the 34 players at camp, only seven were alive when the Herb Brooks-led Americans defied the odds in Lake Placid.

Suter acknowledged he's never even seen a replay of the game.

"Because my dad's a humble guy, he doesn't talk about it," he said. "I still, to this day, haven't seen the game. He said he lent out his game tapes and the people never returned them or they were stolen or something.

"I haven't seen it. I just hear about it through other people. I didn't really realize it until probably seeing the HBO special on it and realizing how significant it was."

Not long ago, Suter was helping out at the hockey school his dad runs in Middleton, Wis. Not surprisingly, the topic of the Olympics came up in the locker room.

"My dad always gives it to my uncle [about having only a silver medal]," Suter said.

Has Suter thought about the possibility that he could add to the family's Olympic medal collection? Ah, yes.

"I get goose bumps thinking about, wow, if I ever could be on the same pedestal as my uncle and my dad," Suter said. "Being able to be an Olympian would be a dream come true. That's why I'm working hard now so that hopefully that will happen."

In some ways, a lack of symbolic hockey touchstones have contributed to the struggles in growing the game in the United States. There was gold in 1960 in Squaw Valley, the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" and the 1996 victory in the World Cup of Hockey. But the Americans have always lagged behind countries like Canada when it comes to those kinds of galvanizing moments in the sport, Poile pointed out.

"We need to make more headway," he said.

This U.S. Olympic team will be a long shot to win gold, just like Bob Suter's team was a long shot to win it all in 1980.

Poile sees the symmetry with Ryan, who is looking to play a role in a new miracle.

"I like how the novel's started," Poile said.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.