MADISON, Wis. – Bob Suter, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic “Miracle On Ice” hockey team, has died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 57.
Suter’s death was confirmed by a spokesman for USA Hockey.
The Madison, Wisc., native won a gold medal representing the United States at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., and is the father of NHL star defenceman Ryan Suter, who currently plays for the Minnesota Wild.
“It’s a tough day for our sport, having lost a great friend and ambassador of the game,” USA Hockey said in a statement. “Bob Suter will always be remembered for his role as a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Team that captivated our country and whose impact is impossible to measure.
“His legacy, however, is far beyond that as he dedicated his life to advancing hockey and helping young people achieve their dreams. Bob’s positive impact on our sport will be felt for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Suter family at this difficult time.”
U.S. Olympic teammate Mark Johnson, now women’s hockey coach at Wisconsin, said everyone was stunned and shocked to hear the news.
“It’s a sad day for not only the community of Madison but the hockey community who knew Bob and all of the players who he touched and who he gave an opportunity to play hockey and climb up the ladder,” Johnson said in a statement released by the Badgers. “Whether it’s high school, onto college or onto the professional ranks, he touched a lot of kids and gave them an opportunity.”
Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel and sister Amanda expressed their condolences on Twitter.
“Today is a very sad day,” Phil Kessel wrote. “I lost a great coach friend and mentor. He made me into the player I am today and I will forever be grateful. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Suter family today. I will miss you forever Bob Suter.”
Amanda wrote that she was “deeply saddened with the news of Bob Suter’s death. He was such a great guy and friend since I was a little girl. He will be greatly missed.”
Suter starred at the University of Wisconsin from 1977 to 1979 and has been a fixture in that area beyond his playing career. He opened a sporting goods store in Madison after retiring.
“I was extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Bob Suter,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “The Suter name is synonymous with Badger hockey. Bob did tremendous work in the Madison and UW community to grow the sport of hockey. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Suter family.”
A seventh-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 1977 NHL draft and a seventh-rounder of the Birmingham Bulls in the 1977 WHA draft, he went on to play 86 games in the Central Hockey League.
“Bob was the ultimate teammate,” Wisconsin men’s hockey coach and college teammate Mike Eaves said in a statement. “He could skate like the wind and was as hard of a competitor that I ever knew. He has passed much too young.”
Suter’s brother Gary played 1,145 NHL games with the Flames, Blackhawks and Sharks and was on Calgary’s 1989 Stanley Cup team.
The Minnesota Wild, who employed Bob Suter as a scout, also released a statement of condolences for his family.
“Not only was Bob a great hockey ambassador, he was a terrific person off the ice who will be greatly missed by all of us,” the team said.
Ryan Suter represented the U.S. at the Sochi Olympics 34 years after his father won a gold medal in Lake Placid.