Hunter happy to be back with Knights
RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
|London Knights co-owner Dale Hunter is taking in the Memorial Cup after stepping down as Washington Capitals head coach last week. (MOLLY RILEY/Reuters file photo)
SHAWINIGAN, QUE. - Let's get the most sacrilegious question of this Memorial Cup out of the way right now.
Dale Hunter, did the Montreal Canadiens contact you to become their next head coach?
“No,” the former Washington Capitals bench boss said with a laugh. “They didn't.”
Hunter is in Shawinigan, Que., to cheer on –- and act as an eye-in-the-sky advisor –- to his beloved London Knights, the team he co-owns and coached back in the fall before his brief D.C., sabbatical.
Hunter ran into new Montreal GM Marc Bergevin on Thursday, but how many long-time Canadiens fans would keel over if the hated ex-Quebec Nordiques forward, who delivered the knockout blow to the Habs in the 1982 NHL playoffs and became a central figure in the Good Friday Massacre two years later, was in charge of Les Glorieux?
“It's split,” Hunter said. “There are people in Quebec who are fans of the Nordiques and there are Canadiens fans. The people remember. They're very passionate about hockey, you see all the sweaters in the crowd, and it's a great place to play.
“I'm happy to be back. I've been asked to sign some autographs and stuff like that. It's been really good.”
Hunter will hold a press conference on Sunday to satisfy the massive number of media requests the Knights have received here to speak to him.
Hunter already spoke with the man he has called one of the best leaders he ever played with and expects to see more old friends from La Belle Province as this Cup progresses.
“I saw Moose Dupont here, who I played with (in Quebec),” Hunter said. “His son Danny is an assistant coach with Shawinigan, the host team, and it was great to see him again.”
This tournament is a family affair for Hunter.
His brother, Mark, is the Knights' GM and head coach. His son, Dylan, is an assistant.
Hunter drove to Quebec this week from London with his father Dick and couldn't wait for the puck to drop Saturday night between the Knights and the defending Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs.
“Saint John's a real good team,” Hunter said. “They won it last year and they're back again. We know how hard it is to get back. You have, what, 60 teams in this (Canadian Hockey League) who want to be here and there's only four now who can win it.
“It's something really special.”
Hunter won the Memorial Cup on home ice coaching the Knights in 2005. He is hungry to hoist the trophy again and doing it in Quebec would mean a lot to him.
“We all do (want to win),” he said. “Everyone works hard for this shot. I'm just glad to be here and watch.”
Hunter stepped down from the Caps last week and laughed when asked if got a chance to give Knights twins Matt and Ryan Rupert, who live in his house, a congratulatory hug for winning the OHL title.
“They were already gone (for Quebec),” Hunter said. “They played well, though, eh? All the kids did a great job. I was proud of them
“They earned the right to be here.”
Hunter wasn't at the John Labatt Centre when the Knights won the OHL title.
He said he's not going back on the bench this week.
But he's here, and the Knights would love to give him a reason to go on the ice to celebrate another Cup win next Sunday.