Tim tackles tough tales

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET


 Tim Hunter can vividly remember the celebrations he helped set off all those years ago.

 The elation in Calgary from the Stanley Cup run, both the 1986 trip that ended in the finals and the victory of 1989 are hard to forget.

 What's transpired here the last few weeks has reminded him of it all.

 Even from San Jose.

 "I've got family and lots of friends there and with the television, I can see it all clearly," said the Sharks assistant coach yesterday. "It's been a long time coming and it's great for the city."

 The city where he was born and raised.

 The city where he toiled for a decade.

 Won a Cup, set a franchise record with 2,405 penalty minutes, was a co-captain.

 A few days before his old team and new squad square off for the berth to the Stanley Cup finals, the always rugged winger admits a big part of his heart remains with the Flames.

 "No doubt. I'm the same as Jim Peplinski or Colin Patterson or Joel Otto. We put a lot of time and effort into making that team a good team and a good team in the community and I'm glad to see they've got back to all that," he said.

 Ah, there's the competitive Tim Hunter you knew would eventually come to the forefront.

 "I wish them all the best," he continued, "it's great for the organization but I work here and our job is to beat the Calgary Flames and we're going to do all we can to do that.

 "I'm of the same mentality as Darryl (Sutter). It's war. They're nice people and it's a nice organization but our job is to beat them, plain and simple.

 "You have all those great memories and mutual respect and what have you but that stops when the puck drops."

 You don't reach three Stanley Cup finals as a player without having a competitive spirit.

 Nor do you help turnaround a team that went from 73 points to 14th in the Western Conference to a franchise record 104 points.

 "It was a slow start but we were changing the makeup of the way this team played," Hunter said. "It took a little while to take hold but once the players bought in and made each other accountable, it's been really enjoyable."

 Especially since the Sharks are loaded with outstanding surprises.

 They knew Patrick Marleau was ready to be a leader, that Vincent Damphousse still had enough in him and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was capable of rebounding from his sub-par season.

 What made the turnaround so successful was the young players.

 Jonathan Cheechoo hit 28 goals, Alyn McCauley became a 20-goal man and Nils Eckman had a career year with 22 goals.


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