Hunter Quits As Head Coach
By Charles E. Sutton
WI Staff Writer
Dale Hunter has quit as Capitals head coach. He made his announcement recently, just days after Washington was eliminated in a Game 7 by the New York Rangers, and after less than one season in the job. Hunter told the team he wants to return to his family in Canada.
"I'm going home," Hunter said, a couple of hours after giving the news to Capitals general manager George McPhee. "I've got a good thing going there with the family, so I'll stay home."
Hunter owns the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, a junior hockey team currently playing for the Memorial Cup. His brother Mark took over as head coach when Hunter left to join the Capitals in November, replacing the fired Bruce Boudreau. One of Hunter's three children is an assistant coach with the Knights.
A former star player for the Capitals, Hunter, 51, brought with him the gritty style he became known for during his 19-year career. The Capitals had a reputation for being soft. Upon Hunter's arrival, Washington adopted a physical style of play which earned them raved reviews during the playoffs.
By limiting star Alex Ovechkin's minutes in the post-season, Hunter created a team-first environment that proved beneficial in beating the defending champion Boston Bruins in seven games, and taking the Eastern Conference regular season champion Rangers to a Game 7.
Players appreciated the new environment and gave Hunter credit for the change, which was at the core of what players and fans thought was a new era for the organization -- that has not won a game in the Stanley Cup finals.
"He's been doing so many good things for this team," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "I really wanted to see him back next year. ...It's not good."
McPhee , who said Hunter "got everything out of this team that he could," does not have a specific timetable for naming Hunter's replacement, saying the search could be done by the June NHL Draft, o that it could extend into August.