Kings Coach Terry Murray has fond memories of Dale Hunter, who was hired Monday to succeed Bruce Boudreau as coach of the Washington Capitals.
Hunter, as sneaky-dirty a player as ever laced up skates — but talented enough to score more than 1,000 points — played for the Capitals when Murray was an assistant coach and, later, the team’s coach. Murray recalled the 1987 draft-day deal Washington made with Quebec to get Hunter.
“The draft was in Detroit, and we made a trade at the draft table,” Murray said before the Kings faced the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. “He came out of the stands and he could hardly walk. He’s limping so bad, and we’re kind of ‘What’s going on here?’
“He had broken his leg near the end of the year and came back and played in the playoffs for the Nordiques. And basically everybody felt he was done because his play was so poor but he had a broken leg still. He came to our table and we welcomed him and we were very happy to have him. It was a good deal for the Washington Capitals.”
Murray recalled Hunter’s skills as clearly as his toughness.
“He was a really good player,” Murray said. “You look back at his stats in Quebec: Michel Goulet was a 50-goal scorer, and that was his left winger. For me he played a skill game but with that edge, that grit, that hard play and actually outright mean sometimes.”
Just ask Pierre Turgeon how mean Hunter was. Hunter viciously checked Turgeon, then with the New York Islanders, after Turgeon scored a goal in the 1993 playoffs and left Turgeon with a separated shoulder. Hunter was suspended for the first 21 games of the 1993-94 season.
“There’s a lot of players you can ask,” Murray said. “He played hard. He played the same on the road and at home. He was a great player, great teammate and he played a long time because of that.”
Murray expects Hunter to bring the same fire to coaching the Capitals.
“He’ll demand stuff be done the right way,” Murray said. “You’ve got to play hard. You’ve got to compete. That’s Dale’s MO. He always did that every day. His reputation, his emotion, he’s got a lot of history in coaching right now. Been at the job for a long time. He’s a good fit for them.”
Boudreau joined Carolina’s Paul Maurice on the unemployment line Monday when the Hurricanes replaced Maurice with former NHL forward Kirk Muller. Murray said the lack of security in his chosen profession hit him as he entered Staples Center Monday and encountered Sharks Coach Todd McLellan as they went through security.
“He said, ‘To get 1,000 games in this game today, man, we just had two more guys go down today,’” Murray said. “It’s a tough business. But it is the business and sometimes that’s what needs to be done in the GM’s eyes.”
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Capitals Coach Dale Hunter runs practice on Monday at the team's training facility in Arlington, Va. Credit: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images