Follow The Leader

The ‘A’ on his jersey might suggest you follow his lead, but for Ryan Suter, it’s all about team success.

He views the acknowledgement as one of the most cherished moments in his hockey career. But when he was given the role of alternate captain for the Minnesota Wild, Suter, in his second season on the Minnesota Wild blueline, he didn’t see it in individual terms.

“When you are given that honour, it obviously is very special,” said Suter, who signed as a free agent with the Wild on July 4, 2012, and was then announced as an alternate captain six days later. “But the one thing that really stands out is how fortunate you feel when you realize just how many other guys are deserving.”

The addition of the ‘A’ to his jersey didn’t alter Suter’s mindset.

“There are all type of ways to lead, but for me, I just wanted to go out and lead through what I did on the ice,” said the 28-year-old, who was recently named to the U.S. men’s hockey team for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games. “You always put pressure on yourself to be at your best no matter what. You have to be in this league.”

Although he’s played in 44 post-season games, totals that include the past four consecutive campaigns, Suter is eager to make it past the conference semifinals, something he did in both 2010-2011 and 2011-12 with the Nashville Predators.

That goal, however, isn’t top of mind quite yet. Getting the opportunity, though, certainly is.

“Everyone that plays this game wants to win the Stanley Cup,” said Suter, who has missed the post-season only twice in eight NHL campaigns. “But in order to be able to do that, you need to focus on the regular season. You see it every year. It always ends up coming down to a few points that determine whether teams get in or not.”

All the more reason, Suter insists, to take a game-by-game approach.

“With so much on the line, it seems every game matters,” offered the Wisconsin native. “You can’t look beyond the next game on the schedule.”

One thing he can look forward to, however, is another opportunity to represent his country in Sochi.

In 2010, Suter, as an alternate captain, won a silver medal with the U.S. He also won gold at the World Junior Championships in 2004.

For now, though, it’s all about keeping the Wild in the post-season picture.

“Once you get there, anything can happen,” said Suter, whose father, Bob, was a member of the storied gold medal-winning 1980 United States Olympic hockey team. “But it takes a lot to get there. That’s something you always remind yourself of. You play hard every night to give yourself that opportunity.”

Having a leader like Ryan Suter on your side certainly helps your chances.

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