Friday, December 20, 2019

Dale Hunter Autographed Card

For the first time, the head(s) of Canadian Juniors hockey's best program (apologies to Patrick Roy's Québec Remparts) will lead Team Canada at the World Juniors Championship, as London Knights co-owners Mark Hunter (GM) and Dale Hunter (head coach) try to win the country an 18th gold medal in that tournament.

Dale has coached the Knights for 18 seasons, winning nine division titles, six OHL championships and two Memorial Cups. Like Roy, he has a tendency to develop talented first-round prospects (Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Bo Horvat, Max Domi, Matthew Tkachuk), but also gets in trouble for icing aggressive teams (he was suspended for four games in 2005 for letting a player leave the bench to join a fight and again for two games the following year for the same reason) and abusing officials (he was suspended for two games and fined $5000 for criticizing referees), but his kids seem to think he's fair and a good teacher.

He coached one year in the NHL, leading the Washington Capitals to a second-place finishing in their division back when teams ending with 92 points was impressive and got to the second round. His defence-first system didn't suit the run-and-gun lineup as well as he'd hoped, so he declined to return for a second season and went back to the Knights instead, winning an OHL title right away.

He remains the only NHL players with more than 1000 career points and over 3000 penalty minutes, ranking second on the all-time list behind Dave "Tiger" Williams with 3565 minutes in the sin bin (plus some 30 games in suspensions, 21 of which came for a single extremely dangerous after-the-whistle hit on Pierre Turgeon) in 1407 regular-season NHL games.

He was also a very good two-way centre, often finishing his seasons with Selke Trophy votes; he was the very first player in NHL history to score two overtime series-clinching playoff goals - both during his days with the Québec Nordiques - and his heart-and-soul style had him captaining the Caps from 1994 until 1999.

Which brings me to card #383 from Upper Deck's 1998-99 Upper Deck collection:
It shows him wearing the Capitals' blue (away) uniform from the mid-to-end-90s with the captain's "C" figuring prominently on his chest. He signed it in black sharpie in 2013 or 2014; I had once again written him care of the Knights, knowing well enough to not send too many for him to sign, so it was just this one.

In a nice twist, Dale's and Mark's older brother Dave Hunter played for the Canadian team at the very first World Juniors in 1977, so this is a nice way to go full circle.

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