Volume 94, Issue 2
Friday, May 19, 2000
Hunting the London Knights
SO. . . YOU COME HERE OFTEN? Dale Hunter, ex NHLer, owner of the London Knights is hoping a lot of people come and see his team next season.
By Sean Maraj
There's a new knight riding into town.
Dale Hunter may have packed up his National Hockey League uniform when he retired last year, after playing 19 years of professional hockey. Now he's donning the armour of the London Knights as he and his brother recently gained ownership of the Ontario Hockey League team.
Hunter played in the NHL for three different teams, moving from Quebec to Washington and finally onto Colorado, where he finished his career in the 98-99 season. For Hunter, playing in the NHL was a life long dream. After years of playing, Hunter pointed to his many heroics in overtime play in the play-offs, as his favourite moments as a player.
"I scored some great overtime goals against Philadelphia, a goal against Montreal when I was with the Nordiques," he said. "Getting to the Stanley Cup two years ago, we lost, but just going that far was great."
With hockey being such a major part of Hunter's life, bringing his career to an end was a hard decision that was made primarily because of the injuries a life in hockey can cause.
"It's one of those things, it's a sad moment. I played 19 years since I was five years old. My last shift we were down 4-1 it was definitely a sad moment," Hunter said. "I was 39 years old, it was just about that time. Your body can't keep up that pace, it's a high level of hockey and at 39 it takes a toll through injuries and wear and tear the body is telling you, you better retire."
Despite all the teams and all the years, Hunter said his favourite team remains the Washington Capitals, who recently retired his number.
With his career behind him, Hunter, along with his family, is looking to bring hockey glory to London. For Hunter, a native of Petrolia, Ontario, the Knights represented a chance for him and his family to get involved in hockey once again.
"I played against [the Knights] 23 years ago and the fans were loud and cheering the team on the fans were very loyal. I just wanted to get involved in Junior A hockey," he said. "My family has been involved in hockey for a long time and the last couple of years me and my brother have been talking about running a junior A team. We had a lot people help us go in the right direction through Junior A. Now we can help the young guys the best we can, help them prepare to get to not only the NHL but also life in general."
Hunter and his family will have their work cut out for them though, as the Knights have been a very unpredictable team in the last few years. Three years ago, the team set a league record in futility with only three wins in an entire season. The next year, the team was only one win away from the Memorial Cup. This year the team didn't make the play-offs. Despite these inconsistencies Hunter remains optimistic.
"Definitely we don't want to ride the roller coaster much. We want a good squad that works hard, that's what the fans want. When you work hard, you'll do well."
Also new for Hunter and the Knights is the construction of a new arena in the downtown core, moving the team away from the outskirts of the city to the centre of town. Still, Hunter reminisced about the Ice House formerly known as the London Gardens.
"The new arena is a great opportunity for the fans to sit in more comfort, everything is brand new. The fans are really going to appreciate it. It's downtown and it's going to be easier to enjoy the game," he said. "Twenty years ago [the Ice House] was a nice place. Everything gets older and you have to move on."
As for Hunter and his goals as the new owner and president of the team, he only had one thing to say.
"I never won a Stanley Cup ring so I want a Memorial Cup ring. That's what we're shooting for."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000