Andy Sutton grew up watching the New York Islanders when they were a rip-roaring dynasty in the early 1980’s.
So when the London, Ontario native signed on with the team — as a part of their four major acquisitions in the summer of 2007 — he felt honored to be a part of such a storied franchise.
“It was really an exciting day for me,” Sutton, now 43-years old and residing on the West Coast, told nyislesblog.com back in late September. “Just how great those 80’s teams were; Being able back then to come in with those great players on that current wave at that time felt like a real opportunity to do something memorable.”
Making the transition from Atlanta, where he had his two best seasons as a pro statistically and helped the now-defunct Thrashers make the playoffs in 06-07, to Long Island seemed like the right move for Sutton. The Islanders were coming off their first playoff appearance since 2004 and were a veteran-laden squad.
Sutton’s first season with the organization — 2007-08 — was full of ups and downs not just for him, but for the team as well.
The burly defensemen, who struggled with staying healthy, only participated in 58 games, recording only one goal and seven assists. Sutton wasn’t the only one who got battered on the blueline. His fellow d-men, Chris Campoli and Brendan Witt, were lost after the new year. The team also was hit hard when All-Star goalie Rick DiPietro was got hurt during the All-Star Game and never fully recovered. The Isles would miss the playoffs that season, bottoming out in the then Atlantic Division.
“The first season was definitely tough in a lot of ways,” Sutton said.
As the 2008-09 season got underway, the injury bug hit Sutton again. This time he missed nearly three-quarters of the season because of a broken foot he sustained in mid-December. Sutton admitted that second season — having two surgeries, one he had early in the year, and then another right after he returned — wasn’t the greatest as well. “It was really challenging being injured like that all year,” he said. Having only registered 10 points in 23 games overall, Sutton was sat out for precaution by the team because they thought he might break his foot again despite him being fully healthy with a month left in the season. “Sitting back and watching as your team, I think I just took a lot of that energy into my third season which was probably the best season I ever had in the NHL.”
Sutton wasn’t just pulling strings when he said that his final year on the Island was his most productive.
He averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in the 54 games he appeared in. The 6-6 big man also provided some much needed offense for the Isles from the blueline — four goals, eight assists. Along with the minutes and production, Sutton was put forth as a role player.
“I had a key role with that team,” the former d-man said. “I had some amazing body checks that year. It was a really incredible year for sure.”
Even with Sutton being one of more established veterans on that 09-10 squad, the Islanders were in a transition mode. They had just selected franchise center John Tavares overall that summer and were in the first year of a full on rebuild under g.m. Garth Snow and head coach Scott Gordon. Sutton though made sure that his place on the team didn’t diminish.
“Coming from Atlanta the few years before and also previously being in Minnesota earlier in my career, I was pretty comfortable in that role,” he said. “Interestingly enough, I think that sort of became my value when I was playing.
“I think I was good with the young players. I enjoyed it. Obviously I wanted to win as much as the next guy. So I relished the opportunity to dig in with some young guys and take some responsibility to make sure that they come up the right way and do the right thing.
“All in all, I don’t have any regrets. I had a job at the highest level and something I love to do for a long time.”
Sutton’s three seasons with the Islanders came to an end on the day of the 2010 trade deadline. He was shipped to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2010 second-round pick. Sutton would spend two more seasons in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers before calling it a career in the spring of 2013.
In Sutton’s words, there was no list of shortage when it came to who he enjoyed playing the most with as an Islander.
“I loved Schrempy,” he said alluding to Robbie Schremp, who in his interview referred to Sutton as a “big teddy bear”. “There were so many guys I had a fun time with there. Rick DiPietro was one. Getting to know Rick, and being there through some of his trials and tribulations; I still keep in touch with a lot of those guys on a regular basis.” Sutton also said it puts a smile on his face when talking about guys like John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, and seeing them come up and turn into the great players they are today. “It’s pretty cool.”
After retiring, Sutton moved into the sports business world and is doing a little bit of everything.
Today, he is the president of Wholesale Sports Inc. in Vista, California. Wholesale Sports Inc. is a five brand hockey company. They own HockeyWest.com — the oldest online wholesaler in the country — as well as HockeyTron.com, TronX, Alkali, FirstStar, and Verbero. Sutton is also the owner of a joint-mobility anti-inflammatory product called JoMo. Sutton became aware of the product three years before he retired and loved it so much, he ended up buying the brand which continues to grow. Both of Sutton’s ventures are run out of California. Sutton resides in California too after playing the end of his career in both Anaheim and Los Angeles, and because that’s where his wife is originally from and his son was born.
“The businesses have been growing really fast and it’s been awesome,” he said.
Despite being 3,000 miles away and his tenure with the team over a decade ago, Sutton still cherishes what he got out of the Isles and Long Island.
He found living in Huntington in his first season great despite the commute and then living in Garden City his second season. Being closer to the rink and to New York City Sutton added was probably one of the coolest experiences of playing on the Island. Hopping all over the Island with the golf courses and the wonderful people also made Sutton’s three years an amazing time for him.
“I had a great time,” Sutton said. “I loved it. The staff, playing at the Coliseum; The organization was run so professionally and so top notch. It was a great experience.”
Sutton from when he was wearing the crest till now, believes that the Islanders have continued to build a culture and that’s why the team is getting better.
“Hopefully in some way maybe I left a mark behind to help build that culture they have created”
You can purchase JoMo at https://jomo.com/
And for hockey products: http://www.wholesalesportsinc.com/