Bob Suter never saw the point in hiding his most valuable item.
He had returned to Wisconsin in the winter of 1980 a celebrated hero, one of 20 men who pulled off the greatest upset in sports, capturing what remains America's last Olympic gold medal in men's hockey.
So years later, when his son Ryan — a self-proclaimed rink rat from the time he could walk — wanted to bring the gold medal to school, Bob saw no reason to refuse.
So Ryan brought his father's 1980 gold medal to grade school with him for show-and-tell every year. Sometimes the medal would make it home with him; other times, it sat in Ryan's locker, a forgotten item next to textbooks and school supplies.
The gold medal sat there for days, sometimes weeks at a time, until Ryan finally remembered to bring it home from school.
“I didn't realize how special it was,” Ryan said.
On Sunday, Ryan will board a plane out of New York with dozens of other NHL players, all destined for Sochi, Russia, and the Olympic Games. All players will have the same goal in mind. Suter, a silver medalist in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, will chase his dream for the second time.
While growing up in Wisconsin, Ryan Suter didn't think much about an NHL career. He wanted to win a gold medal of his own, just like his father. He wanted his own son to be able to bring a gold medal to show-and-tell the way he did every year.
It wasn't that Ryan's father and uncle Gary didn't enjoy their professional careers, but they didn't talk about them much. If Ryan had questions about playing hockey, the answers came from stories surrounding the Olympics.
Bob played for Herb Brooks in 1980. Gary participated in two Olympics and earned silver in 2002.
“That's the only reason I wanted to be an Olympian,” Ryan said. “I grew up hearing about my dad winning the gold medal and watching my uncle win a silver medal and be in the '98 (Games) in Nagano (Japan). So, being in the Olympics, that's what I thought was special.”
Ryan has already, of course, been to the Olympics. But he still hasn't fully appreciated what the overachieving Americans accomplished in Vancouver, when they lost the gold medal to the Canadians in overtime.
“I don't think it's sunk in how special it is,” Ryan said. “Winning a silver medal in the Olympics is pretty neat. Not a lot of people get to do that. So, I don't think it's sunk in yet. When I retire, I'm sure I'll just understand how special it was.”
Similarly, he didn't understand the meaning that surrounded his father's gold medal from the 1980 Games. During grade school, Ryan let teachers take the gold medal for the day and show it off in the teachers' lounge.
Ryan left home at 16 to wear the Team USA sweater for the U.S. Development team. But even then, he admitted, he didn't fully understand what winning a gold medal meant, let alone winning the 1980 Games.
“But then going to the Olympics was probably the biggest, 'Whoa, that's pretty cool' (moment),” Ryan said. “Because the Olympics are a much bigger stage.”
At the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, father and son appeared together for Gillette, one of Ryan's sponsors, which tried to shoot a commercial as they flubbed their lines.
“Good luck editing this,” Ryan joked.
Both wore jeans and brown boots, more fitting for the farms they live on than the bright lights Gillette brought.
In the midst of Ryan's 2012 free-agency extravaganza that netted him a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild, Bob had a tough time believing what was happening to the child who took that gold medal to show-and-tell.
“It's kind of shocking, to be honest,” Bob said. ” When you look back 10 years ago and you look at some of the money baseball and basketball players made, and then the hockey players started getting there, and you thought, 'No one is worth that much money.'
“And to be honest, they aren't. And now he's in the middle of it, so I've got to bite my lip more.”
Bob laughs when talking about Ryan's laid-back demeanor, though he seems even more relaxed than his 29-year-old son.
It's Ryan, he said, who can get worked up.
“When he's back home in the summer, if he gets frustrated, he takes it out by doing landscaping,” Bob said. “He kind of takes his frustrations out by doing stuff in the summer, and when he gets away (at the rink), he just seems calm and relaxed and has fun playing.”
Ryan has one more game with the Wild on Thursday before his attention turns solely to the Olympic Games. Without a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal would be the highlight of his career, Ryan said.
As Ryan left his house for practice Wednesday, his 3-year-old son asked him what was in his hand.
Ryan looked down and lifted his silver medal from the 2010 Games.
“It's my medal,” Ryan told his son.
Ryan kept walking, headed out the door.
As he drove to the arena, he realized his son wouldn't understand what the medal symbolized for another decade or so. He thought back to his days as a grade-schooler with a gold medal jammed into his backpack.
Ryan wants his son to be able to experience that.
“It would be pretty special to win that and have my kid grow up (with it),” Ryan said. “Just having a gold medal like my dad would be pretty special.”