Dale Hunter grew up in Petrolia, Ontario, about a 90-minute drive from the old Maple Leaf Gardens.
But unlike many of his friends the Capitals 51-year-old coach wasnt a Leafs fan. And he didnt follow the Detroit Red Wings, either.
I liked Boston-Philly in those days, Hunter said. They played pretty aggressive, I guess.
That doesnt mean Hunter wont have a little extra motivation to beat the Leafs, a team in close proximity to his former junior team, the London Knights.
Theyre an original six (team), he said. I definitely watched them a lot because its Leaf Nation everywhere around there. I know the team.
Like the Caps, the Leafs have come back to earth after a surprisingly fast start. They reeled off wins in nine of their first 13 games (9-3-1), but have gone 6-7-2 since then.
For Hunter tonight marks a chance to face his former coach, Ron Wilson, for the first time behind an NHL bench. Wilson coached Hunter in his final two seasons as a player, from 1997-99
Hes a very organized coach, Hunter said. Hes very thorough with what he does and what he expects of his players. He likes speed.
Wilsons NHL coaching career has spanned 18 years and 1,365 games, ranking him sixth all-time in both games and wins (634), behind only Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin, Pat Quinn and Mike Keenan.
Its my first year and Rons been around a long time, Hunter acknowledged, but its still a game of hockey and we both have to go play it.
If there is one contest Wilson will win every time, its the behind-the-bench fashion show. Long considered one of the NHLs best dressers, Wilson has a wardrobe far more extensive than Hunter, who has worn the same dark suit and red tie the tie was given to him by Capitals owner Ted Leonsis in all six games behind the Capitals bench.