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

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for parts of Vancouver Island for Thursday and Friday.(File photo)
Snowfall expected in parts of Vancouver Island

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for north, east and inland Vancouver Island this week

A Pictograph panel found near Tlowitsis traditional territory near Kalogwis is attached in the archaeological report produced by the First Nation’s guardian watchmen.
Tlowitsis First Nation records 370 archaeological sites on traditional territories across B.C.

The Nation’s guardian watchmen mapped sites for research and to protect them from human disturbances

RCMP are looking for information on the identity of these two individuals, pictured at the Fisherman’s Wharf Dock on Oct. 16, 2020 at approximately 1:30 a.m. Photos supplied by Campbell River RCMP.
RCMP looking for alleged ‘dock pirates’

Thefts, lines cut from Fisherman’s Wharf on Oct. 6.

The Strathcona Regional District has applied again for funding for RE-CREATE project. File photo
Second round of grant funding ‘last chance hotel’ for Strathcona Gardens reno — Commissioner

Commission thinks streamlined application, lower funding ask gives better shot at success

Brighter Day, a youth-led initiative based out of Volunteer Campbell River, is looking to connect seniors and youth with a new pen pal program to help make everyone more connected during this socially-distanced time. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
New pen-pal program looks to connect seniors and youth in Campbell River

Hope is to ‘make both parties feel less isolated through these challenging times’

Our Home on 8th, the Port Alberni Shelter that opened in March 2019, has 27 extra ‘extreme weather’ spaces for people who need a place to get out of the cold. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BC VOTES 2020: Mid-Island candidate plans occupation of shelter to protest homelessness

Graham Hughes says homeless situation a ‘crisis’ in Port Alberni

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parksville’s Jared Huggan won $75,000 playing BC/49. (BCLC/Photo submitted)
Vancouver Island man $75K richer after purchasing winning lottery ticket at Nanaimo Walmart

Parksville’s Huggan plans to purchase electric bike for partner

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

The Cowichan Steelheads’ Jesus Martinez (left) and the Cowichan 49ers’ Daryl Rodgers chase down the ball during Saturday night’s all-Cowichan clash at the Sherman Road turf. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan masters derby takes unexpected turn with broken leg

Soccer community comes together in midst of battle

Larry Whetstone is concerned about the condition of Jeffries Road, where he has lived for 30 years. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Poor condition of rural road in Cowichan has resident fed up

Transportation Ministry says repair plan under development

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Most Read