“I call him fat #$%&* and 10 days later he fired.” (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
It’s okay. We understand.
Not everyone was a Capitals fan in the 1990′s. Some of you weren’t even alive. You’re not expected or required to know the ins and outs of Bonzai, Langway, Hunter, and Chris Simon (who Peter stubbornly demands be included in Mt. Capsmore). When you heard that the Caps named Dale Hunter their newest head coach, you might’ve said something like, “That name sounds familiar.”
There are lots of good descriptions of Coach Hunter out there already– articles telling the achievements of a hard-nosed Cap with as much talent leveling hits as scoring goals, his number’s retirement and ascent to Verizon Center’s rafters, and his last decade serving as head coach and owner of the OHL’s London Knights.
We’ve prepared a multimedia crash course designed to show you — not tell you– everything you need to know about Dale Hunter.
April 16, 1988: Hunter Beats Hextall
Goal begins at 7:30.
The Capitals’ 1987 postseason ended in an event our parents call the Easter Epic. The Caps went to 4 OTs before losing Game 7 to the Islanders. Redemption came for the Capitals one year later, when Dale Hunter– in his first year with the Caps– completed a dramatic comeback by scoring on goalie Ron Hextall in overtime. Stunned by the win, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser wrote, “. . . nobody can call the Capitals chokers anymore.” And no one ever did. Unless you count Tony Kornheiser, who would do so with frequency over the next 25 years.
November 27, 1992: Hunter Fights Ulf Samuelsson, Breaks Ulf’s Cheekbone
Almost twenty years before Brent Johnson and Rick DiPietro, Dale Hunter made facial bone breaks cool in this bout with Ulf Samuelsson. At the time, Ulf was part of Mario Lemieux’s hit squad, and he had already obliterated Cam Neely’s knee, so don’t feel too bad for the guy. When Alan May watches this video, it’s basically the ending to 300.
April 28, 1993: Dale Hunter Blindsides Pierre Turgeon
The 1993 Patrick Division Semifinals between the Capitals and Islanders found Hunter leading Washington with eight postseason goals. After the buzzer blared for Pierre Turgeon– and NYI’s fifth goal of the game, Dale Hunter checked him into the boards. The blindside hit left Turgeon with a separated shoulder, forcing him to miss all but one of the Isles’ remaining playoff games. Gary Bettman, in his first year as NHL commissioner, suspended Hunter for the first 21 games of the 1993-94 season, which — at the time — was the longest suspension in league history.
June 4, 1998: Juneau Sends Caps to Finals; Hunter Touches Prince of Wales Trophy
Hunter came closest to the Cup as part of the storied ’98 Caps. Capped off by Joe Juneau’s goal, Washington felled Buffalo in 6 games, but promptly got swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the finals. Hunter left the Caps the next year, ending his career in 1999 with the Colorado Avalanche. If he could have stuck around another two years, he could have hoisted the cup with Ray Bourque. Instead, this moment with the Prince of Wales Trophy (the jinxiest jinx up until Russians started painting oil paintings) is the closest he came to the big prize. For now at least.
Just for kicks, here are some more fun Dale Hunter videos:
Hunter puts Kjell Samuelsson’s Head Through the Glass
Hunter Comes to the Aid of Mike Gartner; Destroys Tony Granato
Hunter Sends the Flyers’ Josef Beranek into the Caps Bench
The Caps’ “Capital Feeling” Music Video
Can you spot Alan May?