Spare and fussy with words, he has little of Gabby’s gift of gab. Hunter has the overall demeanor of a grizzled precinct detective — the hard-boiled, means-business character who clumps into the interrogation room after the good cop has left.
“He just had to say one word to you and that one word was like a paragraph or an essay,” May said of Hunter’s captaincy with the Capitals from 1994 until he was traded to Colorado late in the 1998-99 season. “Sometimes he would just look at a guy and that was all that was needed.”
Yes, from the Most Masculine Man in the World, one finger maims; two kills. Instantly.
We could ruin the tough-guy fable and tell you about the playful side of Hunter, like after Jeff Halpern’s second game in the NHL in 1999, a win over Buffalo, when Hunter was a player-development coach after retiring as a player. “I was wearing these brown docksider shoes with my suit, which in the NHL is taboo or frowned upon,” Halpern said Thursday afternoon. “And so after the game I came in the locker room and my shoes were painted with zebra stripes. I had to walk out to the bus in that. It didn’t take long to figure out who had done it. Dale was the number one suspect. I’m pretty sure it was him.” (“I don’t divulge who did that,” Hunter said, busting up laughing at the memory. “He might get me back.”)
Or the sentimental fact that Hunter always looks up at the arena’s video scoreboard when his Game 7-winning breakaway goal against the Flyers is shown from 1988. (“All the young kids say, ‘Holy . . . look how slow you were.’ But I did get a breakaway.”)
And, finally, how much it burns him to this day that the Caps lost a 3-1 series lead to the Penguins in 1992. (“We battled for seven games,” Hunter said. “And then they went on and won the Stanley Cup. We had the team, too. We had the team.”)
But on the night when Sid the Kid is back in town and Hunter is again at the forefront of Caps-Pens, only one fact matters: The present.
No sense going back in time and beating himself up for a missed opportunity. Beginning Monday, Dale Hunter, a fighter, leader and player of great renown, got a chance to rectify everything in the past.