Former teammates congratulate Hunter as his number is retired. (Photo credit: Linda Spillers)
Back at Piney Orchard, only a handful of fans would come out to watch the Capitals practice– usually just the locals.
One day– a million years ago, my brother and I were sitting in the stands watching Mike Eagles and Steve Konowalchuk take an optional skate before leaving the ice. A few moments later, we heard someone cursing nearby. “F%$#ing thing!” the voice boomed.
We looked over to see Captain Dale Hunter, in sweats, fuming at a vending machine. He had put in fifty cents for a pack of Peanut M&M’s. The bag spun, but it stayed on the coil.
At first he was calm. He pounded on the window with restraint. Then he stood on his toes and swayed the machine back and forth, trying to get the candy to fall out. He cursed under his breath and glared acidly at the machine, considering what to do next.
Then he gave the vending machine an uppercut.
If you don’t know him, that’s how Hunter does things. He expects perfection. If he doesn’t get perfection, he can be a vicious S.O.B.
Eventually Hunter gave up. He got some coffee from the concession and walked out.
Dale Hunter was one of my heroes growing up. When I inspected the vending machine after he left, I noticed the scar where he punched the glass. Each time I’d visit Piney Orchard after that, I touched the glass. That story– that moment— was mine, but now I’m sharing it with you. A tiny moment from a player who is larger than life.
Yeah. It was kinda like this, but Ted Leonsis and Alex Ovechkin swore a lot less: