Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter may seem gruff during interviews, but never when he’s around his 21-year old son Chris. Darryl loves Chris so much more than winning hockey tournaments.
Chris Sutter has a form of Down syndrome, called Trisomy 21. When Chris was diagnosed, his parents were told that Chris would never have a normal life. They were told he wouldn’t be able to do anything on his own, that he would always be taken care of by others.
But Darryl and his wife Wanda refused to give up on Chris. “We knew exactly what we were doing,” Darryl toldthe Los Angeles Daily News. “Once they told us the different types of Down Syndrome, and he has Trisomy 21, our whole thing was to try to maximize him and get everything we could for him. We made career decisions with me because we wanted to max Chris out. In some ways, we’re still doing that. It wasn’t about what the doctors said.”
Darryl made big changes in his life to care for Chris, including stepping down from his position as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks when Chris was one. Darryl wanted to take care of Chris full-time in his developmental years.
Now Chris spends about half of his life on the beach or at hockey games, and the other half on the family farm riding horses and his utility vehicle, always with a sweet smile on his face.
When Chris is at hockey practices, he’s very involved. He will give his dad notes on players and plays they should try!
The Kings players love Chris as well. “One time during the year, he asked me if I was going to score a goal or what,” laughed Kings center Anze Kopitar, one of the top players in the NHL.
Click the video below to watch Kopitar with Chris, doing an interview after the Kings won the Stanley Cup.
Virtually every Kings game Chris will end up on the JumboTron at some point, flexing his muscles and dancing.
Daryl told The Star about what it’s like to interact with Christopher. “You understand their emotions, because most special-needs kids, their emotions are what drives their life. They always have extreme emotions, either really happy, or really sad, really mad, something, eh? Strong. It’s because they have good hearts. Like Christopher has a great heart. If Christopher was here today, you’d all love him. You’d want to go do something with him. It’s just what he does. He can pick up how you’re feeling, it’s how he is. It’s an amazing thing. So that has had a big impact for me, us.”
Darryl commented to the Los Angeles Daily News about living with a special-needs son. “Quite honest, the one change it makes in your life, you don’t do it in twos you do it in threes. Chris is always there with us. Whatever you do, when you have a special-needs child in your family, it changes you right away. That’s your child. That’s how we do it. You change your life. In the end, it’s awesome for us. You do everything that involves him.”
When pro-life advocates hear stories like Chris’ they are often tempted to point at it and say, “See, Chris is happy so it’s a good thing he wasn’t aborted like so many other Down syndrome children are.” I think this is a mistake. It implies that the reason Chris shouldn’t have been aborted was because he would be happy later in life. But it would have been wrong to abort Chris even if he wasn’t happy. As my colleague Jay Watts at Life Training Institute says, “There is a difference between what’s wrong with abortion and why abortion is wrong.” Abortion is wrong because it kills an innocent human being without justification.
I think stories like Chris’ are a good reminder to parents who may get that fateful diagnosis during pregnancy that Down syndrome isn’t practically a death sentence for their child’s happiness. The job of parenting a special-needs child is certainly more difficult, but thankfully it also comes with many rewards.
The love between Darryl and Chris is definitely mutual. Darryl told the Los Angeles Daily News, “Actually, every day I get to spend with Chris is Father’s Day, Every time I spend a couple of hours with him, walk down to the ocean with him, it just takes you to a different place. It’s unique and it’s special.”