Dylan Hunter perfect choice to wear the C

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:50 PM ET

The C measures three inches by five inches and is affixed to the sweater above the left breast.

But the responsibilities attached to the wearing of that letter are much bigger.

Captain -- chief, leader, great soldier, strategist, commander.

Dylan Hunter is just that and a perfect choice to captain the London Knights in their post-OHL and Memorial Cup championship season.

Hunter proved himself to be a leader last season as the Knights strived to become one of the greatest teams in Canadian major junior history.

Game after game, Hunter was a key player on the front line.

As a strategist, his hockey mind never rests. He knows the game, understands the game, which comes from growing up in NHL dressing rooms while his father Dale played.

Dylan is the most media savvy player on the Knights. He will speak for 10 minutes and will have 10 minutes of intelligent things to say.

He's experienced at this level, now in his fifth season in the league. There were times during the first two years that the boo-birds might have been enough to send other 16- and 17-year-olds packing for home.

London fans were on him for being overweight. But even harder to endure were fans saying Hunter received so much ice time because his dad coached the team.

But he always sucked it up, knowing he wasn't going to get any sympathy at home. Running from a good fight has never been the Hunter way.

"You're always going to get that but as a hockey player you've got to work through it," Dylan said last night.

"Maybe as a younger player it got to you a little bit, but now I think I've proved myself enough in this league to throw that aside and I don't have to care about it.

"I've been in the league too many years and played too many games. . . . That's enough now."

Dale Hunter left it up to the players to vote for captain. He spent 19 years in the NHL and knows it's important the rest of the players look up to and respect the guy wearing the C.

"You're proud of him," Dale said, speaking as a father. There were nights dad had to bite his tongue on the bench when he heard what the fans were saying about his son. But he knew Dylan would have to fight the battle himself.

"He started at 16 and had to find his way through the league," Dale said. "As you get older, you mature as a player and as a person. It's always up to the individual and Dylan did it himself. He put a lot of work into it.

"It's tough when you hear it all the time. You just have to prove them wrong and he did."

Dale then spoke as an ex-player, recounting some of his captains, "guys that came to work every night.

"You've got to show the guys and that's what Dylan will do, he'll show them you've got to come and work. If you don't work on the ice, you're not a captain.

"But you also have to know when to speak to the guys. You've got to pick the spots when the team needs a boost or individually when a guy needs some help."

The players got to know one of the greatest former Knights last season when, during the NHL lockout, Brendan Shanahan spent time with the team. The former Knights captain was also here for the Memorial Cup celebration.

"He's one of the classiest guys I've ever met in my life," Dylan Hunter said. "He took time out of his schedule to hang out with us. Also what he did with the NHL (in taking a leadership role in revamping the rules) showed what kind of character he has."

Character -- that also begins with a C.


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