Canada head coach Dale Hunter runs drills during practice at the team Canada world juniors selection camp in Oakville, Ont., on December 10, 2019. Dale Hunter holds his cards close to the vest whenever he’s forced into the spotlight.A veteran of nearly 1,600 games in the NHL as a player, the 59-year-old has dominated the Ontario Hockey League as head coach and part-owner of the London Knights for the better part of the last two decades. Hunter is often brief with his answers to the media and rarely shows emotion behind the bench. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canada head coach Dale Hunter runs drills during practice at the team Canada world juniors selection camp in Oakville, Ont., on December 10, 2019. Dale Hunter holds his cards close to the vest whenever he’s forced into the spotlight.A veteran of nearly 1,600 games in the NHL as a player, the 59-year-old has dominated the Ontario Hockey League as head coach and part-owner of the London Knights for the better part of the last two decades. Hunter is often brief with his answers to the media and rarely shows emotion behind the bench. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Dale Hunter set to lead Canada at world juniors: ‘He wants it bad’

Veteran of nearly 1,600 games in the NHL as a player, Hunter has dominated the Ontario Hockey League

Dale Hunter holds his cards close to the vest whenever he’s forced into the spotlight.

A veteran of nearly 1,600 games in the NHL as a player, the 59-year-old has dominated the Ontario Hockey League as head coach and part-owner of the London Knights for the better part of the last two decades.

Hunter is often brief with his answers to the media and rarely shows emotion behind the bench.

Also a legendary prankster — he once put a teammate’s truck on blocks at practice — there’s a burning fire inside the two-time Memorial Cup winner as Hunter prepares to lead Canada into the world junior hockey championship for the first time.

“He wants it bad,” said forward Connor McMichael, who plays for Hunter in London and also made the national team for the upcoming under-20 tournament. “There’s nothing he loves more than winning hockey games.”

Canada is hoping that desire translates into an 18th podium-topping performance at this year’s world juniors in the Czech Republic.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said 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.”

Canada has won gold 17 times since 1977, with the last victory coming at the 2018 event in Buffalo, N.Y., but finished a stunning sixth in Vancouver and Victoria last year.

Hunter’s younger brother, Mark, is general manager/co-owner of the four-time OHL champion Knights with Dale, and the de facto GM of this year’s world junior team.

“He’s not an in-your-face kind of coach,” Mark Hunter 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.”

So a question that’s been asked ever since the brothers were announced as additions to the brain trust of this year’s world junior team was recently posed again: Why did it take so long to bring the Hunters into the Hockey Canada fold at this level?

“It’s here now, and that’s the most important thing,” Mark Hunter said. ”We’re happy to be here. Dale’s very excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

The Hunters will be looking to bring their professional approach from the OHL to Ostrava and Trinec with Canada set to open the tournament with a tough test against the United States on Thursday.

“Just fast and hard, and focus on managing the puck,” Canadian forward Dylan Cozens, a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, said of what Dale Hunter demands. “He’s smart, intelligent. He knows what to say at the right time.”

Hunter, who coached part of one season in the NHL with the Washington Capitals in 2011-12, insists on his forwards playing a 200-foot game, with offensive ability up and down the lineup.

“We’re a skilled team, but we’re going to be a hard-working team,” he said. ”We’re going to have to play on top of the puck all the time.”

Dale Hunter has also shown some of his lighter side to the team of Canadian teenagers, instructing Quinton Byfield to take a peak at the rafters the next time he’s at his home rink with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.

“He told me to look up (to find Hunter’s retired number),” the 17-year-old forward said with a grin. ”I’ll have to check.”

Chicago Blackhawks sniper Patrick Kane, who played for the Hunters in London, was surprised to learn this would be their first time at the world juniors.

“They’ve been so involved (in) producing so many great players,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll do a great job.”

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett was Dale Hunter’s linemate in the NHL, and said his eye for systems and structure was apparent even back then.

“He’d take everything in,” Tippett said. ”We would sit at the back of the bus or the back of a plane and talk about the game — not just who won or lost, but how they won or lost.”

Canadian centre Ty Dellandrea said Hunter’s command of the bench is impressive.

“He gets his players to play the way he wants to play,” said the first-round pick of the Dallas Stars. ”The players are willing to listen to and do what he says no matter what. He’s got a great grasp of his players. He’s firm.

“He likes the hard, heavy two-way game. He takes a lot of pride in his team’s own end. That comes first. Then the offence comes next.”

This year’s tournament actually has some symmetry for the Hunter family.

The oldest of the three brothers, Dave, played at the first official world junior tournament in Czechoslovakia back in 1977.

“I remember mom and dad went over and left us (in Canada) for Christmas alone,” Dale Hunter, a native of Petrolia, Ont., recalled with a grin. “It was pretty special. It was quite an honour to go over there, and for mom and dad to leave the farm.”

Fast-forward 43 years later and Dale Hunter is set to leave his own comfort zone.

And Canada couldn’t be happier.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. (Kitimat RCMP photo)
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Bus routes for CMSD82 students in Cablecar and Kitamaat Village have been temporarily changed for Jan. 21 and 22. (Black Press file photo)
Temporary school bus route changes for Cablecar, Kitamaat Village

The two routes will be combined for Jan. 21 and 22 due to a bus driver shortage

Haisla Bridge traffic will be impacted overnights from Jan. 20 to 23 due to District work. (Clare Rayment/Kitimat Northern Sentinel)
Haisla Bridge traffic impacted due to District work

The bridge will be single lane traffic overnights from Jan. 20 to 23

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Black Press file photo
Fraud scam, car in ditch among weekly Kitimat RCMP report

Kitimat RCMP report from Dec. 18 to 24

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

(File)
Man allegedly bites Vancouver cop during arrest for outstanding warrant

The officer was treated in hospital for the bite wounds

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of B.C. conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch man, 94, facing unwanted trip home can stay in B.C. with wife of 45 years

Immigration offices cuts red tape so couple of 45 years can stay together in Victoria area

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan

Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Most Read