Dale Hunter was one of the meanest many would say dirtiest players in the history of the National Hockey League.
Now that he has replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach of the Capitals, will his team play the same way?
There are too many referees out there now, Hunter joked Monday after conducting his first practice as Capitals coach.
The only NHL player to record 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes, Hunter said he plans on bringing accountability to a new level in Washington.
Im a players coach, he said, but the players will know when Im mad at them. Im stern with them because thats the way you have to be to win games. Everybody makes mistakes out there, but if you continue making mistakes there are repercussions.
After 19 years as a player, Hunter has spent the past 11 seasons coaching the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, piling up a 451-189-23-24 record and the highest winning percentage (.691) in the history of the OHL.
No ones been better at that level, Capitals general manager George McPhee said.
Its not a flash in the pan, one or two years. Its been 11 years. Hes turned that franchise into the best junior franchise going. Hes a great coach.
So what has kept Hunter out of the NHL? He has been approached by several NHL teams over the years the Senators and Flyers are believed to be two and McPhee said hes spoken several times with the 51-year-old native of Petrolia, Ontario about coming to the NHL. McPhee said he was never able to convince Hunter to pry himself from his three children and his role as co-owner and coach of the Knights.
We were always hoping that one day Dale would coach this team, but timing is everything and the time is right now, McPhee said.
His kids are grown up, his franchise is in great shape. Hes available and ready to do this now. The only way he wanted to do this was, in his words, full bore -- and hes going to do that.
Hunter began his day by meeting with McPhee and his assistant coaches, who will remain on staff. He then delivered a short message to his players in which he made it crystal clear who was the boss.
Hes making sure were going to do exactly what he wants to do and thats that, defenseman Karl Alzner said. And I think thats a good way to approach it.
Hunter did not change much in his first practice as coach of the Capitals. He went with the same lines Boudreau used in recent games and his drills looked very familiar to the ones used by Boudreau.
But as time moves on, Hunter expects his team to take on an image similar to his own.
Were going to be a hard team to play against, he said. Were going to be on the puck hard, forecheck hard, and really responsible defensively.
I dont believe in run-and-gun hockey. I believe in cycling the puck to create scoring chances.
Hunter said he will practice defensive zone coverage every day and demand from his players the same things he demanded of himself.
If you play hard on the ice, he said, youll be always playing for me.