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

A case of COVID has been detected within School District 33. (School District 33 photo)
UPDATE: Case of COVID confirmed at a Chilliwack school

Fraser Health has not informed parents but district sent letter to parents Friday

Record-low returns of salmon have been recorded on the Fraser River in recent years. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
Time for Indigenous-led salmon strategy on the Lower Fraser, says Alliance

‘Closures of First Nations, commercial and recreational salmon fishing’ have huge impact: LFFA

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in Fraser Valley

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

The City of Chilliwack says there’s too much spitting going on at the Sardis Sports Complex. (City of Chilliwack photo)
Too much spitting a problem at Chilliwack’s Sardis Sports Complex

The City of Chilliwack is asking the minor hockey community to ease up on expectorating

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’ making second Abbotsford court appearance on Monday

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. (File photo)
This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Maestro Otto Tausk. (Photo: vancouversymphony.ca)
50/50 lotto players buck up for Metro Vancouver musicians hit hard by COVID

‘Rapidly growing jackpot’ for VSO’s 50/50 draw as they go online with TheConcertHall.ca

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read