When Dale Hunter steps on the ice at KCI at noon today, it will mark the first NHL or professional level practice that he has led as a coach.
Hunter’s hiring marks the fourth consecutive time, following Bruce Boudreau, Glen Hanlon and Bruce Cassidy, that Washington has brought in a coach without any prior experience as an NHL head coach.
The former Capitals great returns to Washington after amassing a career as a well-respected junior coach. Hunter, who was in the midst of his 11th season guiding the London Knights, has the best winning percentage in the history of the Ontario Hockey League, compiling a record of 451-189-23-24.
Hunter was the fastest coach in the history of the OHL to record 300 wins — a mark he achieved at the start of the 2008-09 season — and recorded his 450th OHL win this past Saturday. He becomes the second junior coach in the past four seasons to make the leap straight to the NHL.
Peter DeBoer, who is now coach of the New Jersey Devils, was hired by the Florida Panthers at the start of the 2008-09 season after spending the previous 13 years as a head coach in the OHL.
During his time with the London Knights, Hunter coached two defensemen currently on the Capitals roster – John Carlson and Dennis Wideman. When General Manager George McPhee traded to acquire Wideman on the tread deadline last season, he sought Hunter’s advice on the defenseman first.
“I’ve heard so many great things about the organization,” Wideman said. “When I was in junior, my head coach -- and a guy I talk to quite a bit -- was Dale Hunter, and he spoke so highly of the Capitals for so long. It’s a pleasure to be coming up your way.”
Wideman credited his four years with the OHL’s London Knights under the tutelage of both Dale and Mark Hunter for helping him become the player he is now in a sixth NHL season.
“Everyone knows what kind of player Dale was and what he means to that franchise,” Wideman said. “He always said positive things with the way they treat players and moving forward, how they’re trying to build the team.”
More on Boudreau firing/Hunter hiring:
Poll: Was it the right move?
Tracee Hamilton: Boudreau had to go
D.C. SportsBog: Top 10 Boudreau moments
Box Seats: Caps say “Goodnight Bruce”
Q&A: Boswell on firing
Photos: Boudreau fired
Box Seats: Why Bruce had to go