CHICAGO, Ill. - A kid who grew up playing his first-ever Stanley Cup games in his backyard after school with his three older brothers, Gary Suter did alright.
"I think any kid, growing up, no matter what sport, dreams of one day making it to the Hall of Fame, and I am truly humbled to be here" Suter said, Monday night in Chicago.
It was how the Lakeland Union High School boys hockey assistant coach began his induction speech. Alongside were fellow inductees Chris Chelios, Mike Emrick, Ed Snider and Keith Tkachuk who with Suter, were enshrined as the newest members of one of hockey's greatest fraternities.
"I want to thank so many hall-of-fame people who've I have the opportunity to play with and for in the three NHL cities I called home over my career," Suter said. "But I know if I start naming names I am going to leave too many people out."
His family, however, was always at the focus of it all. And it started right away when he was young.
"As the youngest of five kids growing up I knew what family meant," Suter said.
Suter also knew the important role his family played in helping him through his long-tenured career in professional hockey.
"I want to thank my two sons, Jake and Jared Suter who are both here tonight, and especially my wife who I met as a freshman in college in 1984," Suter said. "She has been through the highs and lows of being married to a professional athlete, and made a lot of sacrifice ... Thank you!"
Suter was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the ninth round (#180 overall) in the 1984 NHL entry draft, and had a long and successful career in the National Hockey League.
He was the recipient of the Calder Trophy awarded to the NHL's top rookie, in 1986. It made him the first American-born player to claim the honor.
As a member of the Flames, he was part of the Stanley Cup championship team in 1989. After leaving Calgary, Suter also played for the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks. In 2001-02, his final year in the NHL, he helped lead the Sharks to their first Pacific Division title.
Suter's 844 NHL career points ranks him 13th overall among American players, fourth overall among American defensemen and 14th overall among all defensemen.
His own sister was a figure skater, and his three brothers all played hockey. His brother Bob was a member of the 1980 USA Olympic squad which took the gold medal in Lake Placid. "In our family it wasn't about football or baseball, it was all about hockey," Suter said. "Like any younger brother, I always wanted to simply follow in my brother's footsteps."
Without hesitation, Suter also gave praise to his parents.
"My mom was my support system when I was young," he said. "Of course like many kids growing up, the best coach I ever had was my dad. I remember one of the first things I purchased when I signed with the Flames was a big satellite dish so he could watch all the games. After most games that first year I'd call him and we'd talk about this play here, or another play there."
Suter's induction Monday didn't stop him from being back on the bench with Lakeland Tuesday when his youngest son, Jared, and the T-Birds down conference rival Tomahawk - winning 3-1.
"It's like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Suter said Tuesday night.