Sorry, Dick, your boy's done well

DAVID LANGFORD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:08 AM ET

It seems like a long time ago.

On Nov. 11, 2001, I wrote the following: "The only Hunter involved (with the Knights) without coaching experience is the person who got the job, and that would be Dale Hunter, a young man blessed with plenty of playing experience but no coaching in the resume."

This was days after second-year coach Lindsay Hofford was fired by general manager Mark Hunter. I also suggested Mark -- and even the family patriarch, Dick -- would be better choices than the inexperienced Dale. I believed -- to use baseball terms -- that Hofford was given a quick hook by the Hunter family.

However, that same Dale Hunter was the man in charge when the Knights won the first Memorial Cup in the team's history on Sunday night.

That same Dale Hunter has been OHL coach of the year twice.

And yes, the same Dale Hunter was named CHL coach of the year once in 2004 and many experts think he should have been a repeat winner this year.

Along the way, he has gained giant respect for his coaching greatness across two countries.

His coaching prowess has also led to countless speculation that he will end up behind the bench with the Washington Capitals, perhaps taking along Mark as assistant general manager under GM George McPhee.

The Hunter family, to a person, denies this possibility. They will certainly return to London next season, Dale assures one and all.

Meanwhile, Dale's coaching technique has been analyzed by many experts, particularly over the past two weeks. To a person, they say Dale Hunter knows how to coach in both ends of the rink.

The dominant power play and the ability to absolutely shut down teams defensively are traits of a Dale Hunter-coached team.

Usually, coaches -- like players -- are stronger at one end than the other.

But there is a third area where Dale is at his best and that is relating to his players. To a man (OK, boys in many cases but they are growing up quickly), they love playing for this guy. As they should.

People make light of his stone face behind the bench, but away from the bench nobody enjoys a laugh more than Dale. OK, perhaps Dick Hunter.

All the coaching staff -- which also includes Jacques Beaulieu, Jeff Perry and Dave Rook -- treats the players with the utmost respect. Add Mark Hunter to that list, the person who has to pull the strings on the trades.

Imagine having to trade two nephews in the same season -- Logan Hunter and Rick Steadman -- and keeping your head on straight. The nephews understood because the Hunter family advised them every step of the way of their plans.

After making the Steadman trade, Mark Hunter was not so happy with this department. The next day's story read: "It's Memorial Cup over kin for the Hunter family this season."

Mark Hunter called me and we discussed the apparent lack of sentiment in the first paragraph. He said dealing Steadman was already tough enough.

Perhaps. But it did tell the story, a tale that ended Sunday.

Without Dale Hunter behind the bench, that success may not have happened.

So in conclusion, I could not have been more wrong that November day.

(Dick, quit laughing. Everybody makes mistakes.)


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