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

Surrey Police Service cruiser. (File photo)
Surrey Police Service, CUPE sign staff transfer agreement from RCMP to new force

Chief Constable says there will be ‘no disruption’ to police service during transfer

Seed & Stone hopes to open a cannabis retail store in the old Giraffe Restaurant building on White Rock’s waterfront. (Seed & Stone rendering).
Council to decide on cannabis store proposed for White Rock beach

Councillors heard support and opposition at public hearing last week

SkyTrain running through Whalley. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Mayors’ Council wants feds to fund Surrey-Langley SkyTrain in upcoming budget

Mayors’ Council on regional transportation sent letter to federal government Monday

Spring Break kits available for free at Surrey Libraries branches. (submitted photo)
Free ‘Spring Break Kits’ for kids at Surrey Libraries

Children don’t need a library card to get a kit, but can sign up for one for free

An immunizer prepares to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site. (Fraser Health Authority photo)
North Delta COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open ‘in the coming weeks’

Clinic next to Delta City Hall opens March 15 for seniors 90+, Indigenous people 65+, Indigenous Elders

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Denise Stevenson

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Some of the hundreds of pounds of trash removed by divers last month from Abbotsford’s Walmsley Lake.(Henry Wang photo)
VIDEO: Divers remove 462 pounds of trash from Abbotsford lake

Walmsley Lake dive uncovers several tires, hundreds of drink containers and a tent

Trent Miner is returning to the Vancouver Giants, the team announced. He has been released by the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.(Rik Fedyck/Vancouver Giants)
Trent Miner returns to play goal for Vancouver Giants

Netminder was part of epic 11-game winning-streak by Langley-based team

Most Read