Hutton calls it a career

Thunder Bay’s Carter Hutton had 43 regular season wins, against just one loss in his time with the Fort William North Stars and still holds the SIJHL single-season record for shutouts with 10. Photo credit: Hockey Canada Images

are what you make of them and Carter Hutton certainly made the most of his.

Now it will be the time for him to sit back and reflect on each of them as the 36-year-old goaltender has opted to retire, which sees his decade-long National Hockey League career come to a close.

Featuring NHL stops with the Philadelphia Flyers; Chicago Blackhawks; Nashville Predators; St. Louis Blues; Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, the Thunder Bay product feels the moment was right to hang up the pads.

“Honestly, I’ve been preparing myself for hockey to be over in some aspect for awhile,” offered Hutton when discussing his pronouncement.

“The NHL has evolved into a young man’s league. The average age in the league is now in the early 20s, so I knew that this job wouldn’t be a lifelong one for me.”

The wear and tear of competing at the highest level eventually takes its toll on everyone, at various stages, and it was no different for the affable Hutton.

“Ultimately, I suffered an ankle injury in early 2021, which made the decision a lot easier for me. It restricted a lot of the mobility I needed to be as effective as I once was. This, compiled with a few other things helped me decide on retirement.”

However, what a run it was for the netminder, who took advantage of every chance he was given.

That initial one came midway through the 2004-05 Superior International Junior Hockey League season when he was manning the nets for an average local Golden Hawks side and Fort William North Stars general manager, the legendary Gary Cook, saw something in him that he liked and made a deal to acquire him.

Hutton immediately showed Cook’s assessment was indeed accurate and his astuteness paid immediate dividends as his new goalkeeper went 10-0-0 to wrap-up the regular season while sporting a stingy 1.30 goals-against average, along with two shutouts.

Tack on three more triumphs in the postseason, and his efforts helped his new club win the SIJHL’s Bill Salonen Cup championship.

Taking over as the No. 1 goaltender in 2005-06, Hutton was again brilliant, going 33-1-0 with a crisp 1.84 GAA and a save mark of .926, while posting a league record 10 shutouts, which still stands today.

He was also rightfully was named the SIJHL’s top goaltender award recipient for his efforts.

Add on another seven wins in the playoffs and Fort William ruled the SIJHL once again.

Another occasion to prove his worth came as the North Stars hosted the 2006 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A event at the Fort William Gardens.

Advancing to the final, against a high-scoring club from the NOJHL, the Sudbury Northern Wolves, Hutton held his team in it long enough before they eventually won in overtime, to punch their ticket to the Royal Bank Cup nationals in southern Ontario.

Reflecting on that, he feels his time in Jr. A was a key moment that aided in his next move up the hockey ladder.

“The SIJHL was a great learning experience for me and a place I really grew as a person and goalie,” Hutton chimed in.

At the RBC, Fort William certainly held their own, advancing all the way to the semifinals, where they dropped a heart-breaking 3-2 decision in extra time to the eventual champion, the Burnaby Express.

“That North Stars team and staff is still very important to me and I am forever grateful for that final season. We won the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, 7-6 in OT, and I always say that if we were to lose that game, I don’t believe I would have had the same opportunity to play in the NCAA.”

Off his tremendous campaign, what came next for him was a late offer to attend the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, in the U.S. collegiate Division I ranks, where yet another challenge awaited.

Next week: Part II on Carter Hutton’s unheralded rise to the NHL.