Two of three coaches on the OHL bench for the London stop of the Canada-Russia Subway Super Series on Nov. 11 will be working this year’s world junior tournament.
Mississauga’s Dave Cameron is the Canadian junior team’s head coach in Buffalo and Belleville’s George Burnett is his assistant.
The third guy, the one who’s won more games and has been the OHL’s most successful coach the last decade, will be watching the tournament on TV again.
London Knights head coach Dale Hunter has never submitted an application to go for gold. Likewise, Hockey Canada has never twisted his arm to join the coaching staff.
The massive challenge, no doubt, intrigues him and he never outright dismisses his interest in it.
“If the timing’s right then maybe I’ll look at it down the road,” the 50-year-old Hunter said Thursday. “It’s an honour to be involved (with the Super Series) and it’s a good first step.”
Hunter, a 19-year NHLer, never represented Canada as a player. He never appeared in an international tournament.
“I was never asked,” he said.
As Knights coach, he has never signed on to run under-17 or under-18 teams.
Even veteran ex-NHL coach Pat Quinn ran Canada’s under-18 team before he was given the world junior gig in Ottawa.
“They (Hockey Canada) like you to go through the progression,” said Hunter’s Knights assistant Jacques Beaulieu. “I was involved with Hockey Canada at the under-17 and under-18 levels. I thought I had an inside shot (for a world junior spot) but then I got fired.”
Hunter is busy at his Knights job but not so much he couldn’t leave the team at Christmas to help out Canada. Cameron is going to Buffalo and he still has to put together a Majors team that won’t embarrass itself at the Memorial Cup next spring.
“He’ll do a good job, he’s very thorough,” Hunter said. “I enjoy being with other coaches and seeing how they do things and steal some drills if you can. You learn from watching what they do.”
No one is more thorough than Hunter, though. When the Knights went through a confounding losing streak two years ago, every facet of the team’s game went under the microscope.
Hunter brought in a gaggle of coaches and consultants to work with and evaluate the players. At one point, there were eight coaches and helpers on the ice during a London practice.
“He runs the Knights like a pro team,” said defenceman Scott Harrington, who will play in the London game. “Absolutely, I think he’s capable of coaching the world junior team.”
The Canadian world junior coach has to be ready for constant media scrums and countless questions. Hunter has proven this season he is up to that task.
He does watch the junior tournament fanatically every year. He loves looking at how coaches handle the pressure situations of a big-time tournament and who they put on the ice at critical times.
“Everyone watches it,” he said. “We all do. You root for Canada, of course, but you look at last year and (former Knights defenceman) John Carlson scores the overtime winner for the U.S. That was just a great shot and you remember things like that.”