He once benched Alex Ovechkin in the third period of a 2-1 playoff game. That’s the kind of motivation former Washington Capitals great Dale Hunter intends to use with Team Canada when they begin play in this years IIHF World Junior Championship on Thursday.
“Every hockey player wants to play,” Dale told the Toronto Star. “I’ve been benched a few times and I definitely came out and played a lot harder the next game.” Hunter, who replaced Washington Capitals’ bench boss Bruce Boudreau in November of 2011, amassed an NHL coaching record of 30-23-7 in the regular season, and a 7-7 record in the post season, before calling it quits two days after the end of the 2012 season.
Dale’s brother Mark, a former assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the focal point of Canada’s brain trust as the country looks to rebound following a disappointing sixth-place showing in last years tournament.
Mark Hunter said his brother is the best choice to run the bench. “Dale brings a lot of calmness,” Mark said. “Of course, like every coach, technically he’s strong and he knows who he wants to put on the ice. But there’s a calmness to him, and the respect that he holds behind the bench that a lot of coaches don’t have.”
“He’s not an in-your-face kind of coach,” Mark said of Dale. “He’s very calm, but he’s a coach that gets his message through (with) ice time and his presence on the bench and the dressing room.”
It’s a great opportunity,” said Dale Hunter, whose only other international experience came at an under-18 tournament in 2013. “It’s something I always wanted to do. It worked out into a good situation right now to go ahead and do it.”
The Hunter brothers have won four OHL titles and two Memorial Cups with the London Knights, a team they have owned and operated since 2000, and has included players such as Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, John Carlson and Corey Perry, to name a few.
The Hunters will bring with them two of their own players from the Knights to this years World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic – Liam Foudy and Capitals 2019 first round draft pick Connor McMichael.
“It feels like every NHL game I watch, there’s at least one Knight in it,” McMichael told the National Post. “The Hunters have such a rich history of being winners. They can build a good roster and hopefully, win a gold medal for our country. There’s no one else better to do it.”
“It’s a pleasure to learn from him,” said McMichael. “He’s coached in the NHL, he’s played in the NHL, so he knows a lot. He’s been through it all, so he’s a great guy to have as a coach in junior.”
McMichal told The Canadian Press “He wants it bad. There’s nothing he loves more than winning hockey games.”
Dale Hunter, Connor McMichael and Team Canada open play against Team USA on Thursday. Puck drop is set for just after 1:00 PM ET. The NHL network will broadcast most of the games again this year.
By Jon Sorensen
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#ALLCAPS prospect @connor91mcmichael scored his third hat trick of the season Friday night. McMichael had 3g, 1a in the second period of the Knights 5-1 win over @ohlrangers. For the season, McMichael has 23g, 27a (50 points) in just 20 games played. He leads the @ohlofficial in points. #Capitals #Caps @londonknightsohl (🎥 @ohlofficial)