Dale Hunter is plenty familiar with the Capitals-Penguins rivalry from his playing days, but this time he gets to be reintroduced as a coach, facing a detested opponent that also happens to be sitting atop the NHL standings.
When it comes to facing these Penguins, which include a now-healthy Sidney Crosby, who will face the Capitals for the first time since the Winter Classic back on Jan. 1, Hunter already has a little experience.
Hunter’s London Knights defeated Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic to capture the Memorial Cup back in 2005. The Knights shut out both the team and Crosby, who was the CHL’s leading scorer that season, in the deciding contest.
“He was special,” Hunter said recalling that Memorial Cup win over Crosby and Rimouski. “We had to put a checking line against him and pay special attention – he still scored points and goals -- we limited him, anyways. He was so strong on his skates at that age, too. He was 17 and to dominate junior like he did and play against, we had an older team they were 19-year-old kids, and right away you knew you had a special player.”
Granted, Crosby is five years older and an established player in the NHL, but Hunter is fully aware of the focus it takes to shut down the Penguins’ captain.
“I don’t know, I’ve got to watch tape on that,” Hunter said with a laugh when asked how to stop Crosby. “He’s the type of guy that you’ve got to give special attention to, just like Ovi does too. We’ve got to be aware of him at all times on the ice.”
As for his personal history in the Penguins’ rivalry, when asked about his rather well-known fight with former Pittsburgh defenseman Ulf Samuelsson (video below), Hunter laughed and said “That’s years ago, a few pounds and grey hair ago.” During that fracas in November of 1992, Hunter fractured bones in Samuelsson’s face.