The face of Hollywood's hockey revolution looks like a closed fist.
The most powerful voice of Tinseltown's growing hockey chorus is an undiscernible mumble.
The biggest name on the Southland's coolest sports powerhouse is one that many people around town still can't correctly pronounce.
The coach of the
During games Sutter is that squinting, scowling guy behind the bench. After games he is that terse and sometimes surly conductor of painful televised news conferences filled with sarcastic answers, dismissive stares, and awkward silences.
As the Kings embark on their second
Except, see, he's perfect. He's sold a beaten-down Kings franchise on a championship culture. He's sold their long-suffering fans on championship fun. And, in his best move yet, he's sold the public on the incorrect notion that he's a jerk.
It's Darryl Sutter, as in rudder, which he has considered his job description for this once unsteady team.
Sutter gets dirty so his players can stay clean. He becomes a villain so his players can look like angels. He bats away questions during uncomfortable news conferences so his players won't later face those same pitches.
He fights away what he considers intrusions into his team so his players can play in peace.
The players love his act so much that they have actually watched those news conferences in the dressing room, howling with each clipped verb and muddled explanation.
"They are definitely interesting, we just laugh at some of the things he says," said
The players know that every arrow invited by Sutter is one less blow they have to absorb.
"He takes the attention off us and let's us play our game," said Tyler Toffoli.
It was a disappointment during Tuesday's Stanley Cup media day that Sutter didn't have a chance to strut his stuff. He shared his news conference with
Sutter was only asked seven questions. There was none of his double-talk fun that was once parodied on
Afterward, your brave correspondent tentatively approached Sutter as he left the stage.
Even at age 55, he appears strong enough to knock your block off. Yet when the topic of his cantankerous news conferences was broached, his handshake was firm, and there was actually a bit of a twinkle in his eye.
"In every sport, there are coaches who want to sell it," Sutter said. "I don't have to sell it."
Wait a minute, but this is Hollywood, this place is about entertainment, the Kings need glamour and glitz and …
"They had that, it didn't work," he said, referring to the days of
Yes, of course, but as the face of a franchise that is constantly fighting for attention, shouldn't you …
"Who do you think the best coach in the
The difference between the two coaches is that Popovich has been around long enough to be considered a lovable curmudgeon. Despite being just four wins from leading a team to its second Stanley Cup championship in three years, Sutter is still surprising people with what is perceived as his rudeness. Not that he cares, he says, as long as his players are publicly protected.
"This whole thing is about the players," he said. "They take public criticism from everywhere else, they should never take it from the coach. Everything stays inside the locker room. This is all about the locker room."
So he never talks about injuries, rarely talks about individuals, and never offers any glimpse into what
Every Kings home game, there is a young man whose aisle dancing is shown on the
Even fewer probably know that in 1995, after Sutter coached the
Sutter's "softer" side also shows in notes he will send to friends struggling with family losses, long talks he will have with strangers who never even recognize him, and the way he once welcomed Times photographer Robert Gauthier to his Alberta farm for a weekend assignment after Gauthier showed up at sunrise as promised.
"Yeah, at times, he can be intimidating," said Muzzin of Sutter. "But you always know where you stand."