A standout from last year's NHL All-Star game will make a repeat appearance Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, but his name isn't among the league's scoring leaders or top goaltenders.
Christopher Sutter, a star among stars last year in Columbus as an assistant to his father, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, accompanied his dad to Nashville for another turn behind the bench. Darryl Sutter will coach the Pacific Division team with help from Christopher, who was born with Down syndrome nearly 23 years ago.
Washington Capitals Coach Barry Trotz, who will coach the Metropolitan Division team in the three-on-three tournament the league adopted this season, spoke Friday of the bond he has developed with Darryl Sutter because he also has a son with Down syndrome. Nolan Trotz is 14, and Barry Trotz said Darryl Sutter was among the first people to reach out to him after the boy was born and told him having a special-needs child is "the best thing ever."
Trotz told the Chicago Tribune, "I think there's a little connection. Darryl, every time I see him, the first thing he asks is, 'How is your son doing?' I get a big smile on my face. We were playing L.A. and I saw Chris up in the stands and he gets up in the aisleway and dances and I got a huge smile on my face because I hope my son has as much fun as Chris does around the players and all that in the future.…
"Honestly, we could care less about our teams because we have that little bit of connection. We understand that that's a real important part. And I probably say to him that that keeps us grounded. The blessing of having a special-needs child is that you are grounded and you probably look at life a little differently than everybody else … and it's a blessing. It really has been a blessing for our family, that's for sure."
A few weeks ago, NHL officials pressured enforcer John Scott to withdraw from the All-Star game after a joking, Internet-driven campaign led to his being voted the Pacific Division captain. On Friday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman welcomed Scott to the festivities.
Scott, who kept his All-Star status despite being traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Montreal Canadiens and being sent to the minor leagues, accepted Bettman's gesture graciously.
"We had a quick talk because I think he was worried about me not feeling welcome and being uncomfortable with this whole situation," Scott said. "He just said, 'We are happy you are here, we wanted you to be here and just go out and have fun and know our support is behind you.' It was good to hear that from him because there was a time when I wasn't really sure how the league felt, and he kind of put those thoughts at rest."
Scott and Central Division captain Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks chose the Western Conference participants for Saturday's All-Star skills competition, while Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers and John Tavares of the New York Islanders chose the East participants. The winning conference will choose when its semifinal game will be played Sunday.
The Central All-Stars will face the Pacific All-Stars and the Atlantic All-Stars will face the Metropolitan All-Stars Sunday in semifinal games, with the winners facing off for the championship and a shared $1-million bonus.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick will be the West goalie in the breakaway challenge event, Corey Perry of the Ducks will be a shooter and Drew Doughty of the Kings will be a passer in the accuracy shooting event, Perry and Doughty will compete in the skills challenge relay, and they will be joined by Ducks goalie John Gibson in the shootout.
Here next year
Bettman will hold a news conference Saturday, during which he's expected to announce the awarding of the 2017 All-Star Game to Los Angeles. The Kings previously hosted the game at the Forum in 1981 and at Staples Center in 2002.