Coach Dale Hunter said he discussed the decision to resign with his family last night, slept on his thoughts and made his choice this morning.
“It’s a tough decision,” Hunter said. “When I retired as a hockey player, I had to retire because I wasn’t that good anymore, I guess you want to say. This was a tough decision. I enjoyed coaching these guys here and being back to the team. I always figure, it’s not my team but Ted’s team, but it’s still my team. It was the right thing for me and my family.”
Hunter said he’s proud of the way the players accepted his defense-first system and adapted to it.
“I came in with a little different philosophy,” he said. “But the work ethic, the commitment [for] the players to go on the ice and do what they did, down the stretch [and] make the playoffs.”
He added: “I’m proud of these guys for sacrificing and doing what it takes to win. We came up a goal short, but not for a lack of effort.”
Asked if he was tempted to see the team through next season, Hunter said: “It was a tough choice. It’s not like it was an easy choice to make. They’ve got a good thing going here. The biggest thing is the guys believed in themselves.”
The players have been informed of Hunter’s decision, but he has not yet spoke to them as a group. Hunter said he will address the players this afternoon and then meet again with McPhee to discuss the team.
Hunter also said he won’t return to the bench this postseason with the London Knights, the junior team he co-owns and used to coach. London won Ontario Hockey League last week and has advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament, which begins this weekend.
“I’m a fan this week,” Hunter said.
One thing missing from Hunter’s resume as a player was a Stanley Cup championship. Now, he won’t be getting one as a coach, either.
“Weighing the both sides, going home to the family [and] the family business, you know, outweighed it,” Hunter said. “I’d love to win a Stanley Cup coaching but, even if they win a Stanley Cup next year, I’ll feel like I’ll be part of it.”
More on Dale Hunter:
— Ovechkin, Backstrom react
— Hunter steps down as Capitals coach
— Boswell reaction: UNBELIEVABLE!
— December 2011: Hunter still has work to do
— March: Hunter tied to hockey fortunes in two cities