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Hunter joins Sudbury greats in arena rafters

By: Laurel Myers - Sudbury Sports Magazine

 | Feb 02, 2014 - 10:03 AM |
Former Sudbury Wolves player Dale Hunter, second from left, was honoured on Friday Night when the organization retired his jersey number. Photo by Laurel Myers.

Former Sudbury Wolves player Dale Hunter, second from left, was honoured on Friday Night when the organization retired his jersey number. Photo by Laurel Myers.

Friday was a special night for Dale Hunter.

Not only did his London Knights come out on top of a neck-and-neck 3-2 matchup with the Sudbury Wolves, but the former Pack member's number was also raised up to the rafters in the Sudbury Arena.

Hunter's banner now hangs beside those of Mike Foligno, Randy Carlyle and Ron Duguay, all former Sudburians and Sudbury Wolves, who went on to have illustrious professional hockey careers.

"It's an awesome honour to go up there with the other great players," Hunter said.

Hunter started his OHL (OHA at the time) career with the Kitchener Rangers in 1977, before being traded to Sudbury later that season. In the 1979 NHL Entry draft, the Quebec Nordiques drafted the young Hunter in the second round, 41st overall. He made the jump to the NHL after only two seasons in the OHL, playing seven seasons with Quebec.

In 1987, Hunter was traded to the Washington Capitals and later became their captain. In a last-ditch effort to win a Stanley Cup, Hunter was traded to the Colorado Avalanche after playing 12 years in Washington. The Avalanche lost to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference finals.

He said his time with the Wolves helped shape the rest of his hockey career, and more.

"At the junior age, it definitely affects you," Hunter said. "It moulds you into what you're going to be, not just in hockey, but life in general, because it's your teenage years, so it's very important and I can't thank the Sudbury Wolves enough."

Hunter's career highlights include recording more than 100 points in his first season with the Wolves, becoming the captain of the Washington Capitals, retiring as the first player in NHL history with 300 goals, 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes, becoming the fastest coach in OHL history to reach 300 and 500 wins and the list continues. But there wasn't a sole accomplishment that Hunter could describe as his crowning moment.

"Through your career, you always have great moments. For me, it's just coming here, playing here and getting drafted out of Sudbury, it's like a phase. Making the National Hockey League and then playing for a long time. They retired my sweater in Washington and now I'm retired here, so I'm pretty happy with my career."

After playing 19 years in the NHL, Hunter retired at the age of 39. He was hired as the director of player development for the Washington Capitals in 1999-2000. In 2000, his number “32” was retired by the Washington Capitals. Later in May, Hunter and his brothers purchased the London Knights and began to build the empire they have today. He has been the Knight's coach since 2001, and led the team to its first Memorial Cup in 2004-2005. He has the best winning percentage in OHL history, winning back-to-back OHL championships and securing the Knights’ place in their third consecutive Memorial Cup as hosts.

In 2012, Hunter spent almost the full season as the head coach of the Washington Capitals before heading back to his London Knights.

Hunter said he continues to cross paths world with some of his teammates from his days with Wolves, including Mike Foligno, Bob Lekun, Randy Hillier and Don Beaupre.

"The hockey world is a small world," he said.

Watching his Knights claim the victory Friday night at the Sudbury Arena was just icing on the cake.

"I appreciate my time in Sudbury," he said. "It was a great time."

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