Sutch a source of knowledge and wisdom for young Express

Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Once a star forward for the York Simcoe Express, Gregg Sutch is lending a helping hand to a group of young players in the same spot he was eight years ago as a prospect eligible for the OHL Priority Selection.

The York Simcoe Express Minor Midget assistant coach will be behind the bench on Monday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre when his club looks to follow up a Silver Stick title and an OMHA Championship to complete the triple crown by hoisting the OHL Cup.

Sutch was the 11th overall pick of the 2008 OHL Priority Selection by the Sarnia Sting and went on to play five OHL seasons from 2008-13 between Sarnia, Mississauga Barrie and Saginaw.

The Newmarket native was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft and had the opportunity to play in the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup, reaching the finals with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.

With these experiences behind him, it’s needless to say that Sutch can easily identify with any one of his players from an on-ice standpoint.

“These kids deal with pressure,” he said. “Especially around this time of year where your level of play at the OMHA’s or the OHL Cup can really take its toll on your status. I remember letting the pressure to perform get to me a few times and it started to reflect on my game. For me, there’s a lot of satisfaction in helping these guys work through situations and being there to listen when they need an ear.”

A resilient 24-year-old, Sutch has overcome his share of challenges off the ice as well. A lifelong hearing impairment has impacted his life at and away from the rink. Sutch also dealt with the loss of former Spirit teammate Terry Trafford who he skated alongside during his time with Saginaw during the 2012-13 season.

After being shaped by these experiences and having gone through the ups and downs of a five-year junior hockey career, Sutch is revisiting his York Simcoe roots and doing his best to guide some up-and-coming young players on one of the best Minor Midget teams in the province.

For Sutch, it’s important that his players remember that life is about much more than just hockey.

“I know that all of our players have a burning desire to play at the next level, so it’s healthy for them to want to make the most of the opportunity in front of them,” he said. “I just want them to appreciate where they are and for them to see the big picture. They’re all very talented young athletes and I want them to pursue their hockey careers to the fullest, but it’s also my hope that they appreciate the fact that they’re in a phenomenal position that millions of kids out there will never get to experience.”

While Sutch grew up enamored with the game of hockey, he’s branched out since hanging up the skates and is completing his final year of Fitness & Health studies at Georgian College, utilizing his OHL Education Package.

The 255 game OHL veteran has also acted as a moderator between the OHL’s overage players and the Ontario Hockey League executive committee, a role that has helped bring about the OHL’s now two-year partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“I definitely see that there’s more awareness being put forth to that topic,” Sutch said, citing the CMHA Talk Today Program. “Those sorts of resources didn’t exist when I played in the league and I think there’s still work that can be done to further those developments, but I can see that it’s going in the right direction.”

While he’s been busy with his schooling and has devoted considerable time to coaching this past season, Sutch has gained the respect and admiration of his players.

“Gregg is an inspiration to all of us,” said York Simcoe captain Cameron Hillis, who led the OMHA’s ETA circuit in scoring with 72 points (25-47–72) this season.

“He’s been a great source of advice and knowledge for our whole team and we always know he’s there to listen when we have something we need to talk about. I know for myself he has had some really great things to say about dealing with pressure and not letting it get to you.”

For Sutch, who has his sights set on continuing to pursue life behind the bench, it seems the feeling is mutual.

“They’re great guys, all of them,” he said. “There’s a real enjoyment in being able to help these guys not only get to where they are, but also in preparing them for where they’re headed. Helping coach this year has been a real privilege.”

Sutch and the Express are in pursuit of the organization’s first OHL Cup title since 2004 on Monday, taking on the reigning OHL Cup Champion Toronto Marlboros in a game that can be seen live across the province on Sportsnet Ontario at 7:00pm.

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