VANCOUVER – Team Hunter lifted the Stanley Cup and led the NHL on penalties twice before he got a bit of a training bug at the end of his career.
He said he realized that he wanted to become a coach when playing under Pat Quinn with the Vancouver Canucks from 1992 to 1996.
It is appropriate that this is here, in the shadow of the Big Irishman statue in the building on Pat Quinn Way, that Hunter has gotten a moment to shine as Team Canada's head coach at the World Junior Championship.
Hunter certainly has applied several lessons from the coach of the Hall of Fame. He recalled his favorite story on Friday when Quinn grumbled at a break one night in Winnipeg.
He said Quinn came to the changing room and tapped the five-gallon Gatorade bucket "as if it were a cup across the table.
"We like 'Oooooh!'," Hunter said.
Quinn then aimed at the next target.
"They have this big 50 gallon drum, a steel drum as a trash can, and I see him and he boots this can and it doesn't move," Hunter said. "Then he left the room and I like‘ Wow! ’I go and move the can and it's half full of cement."
"You have to spin their chains every now and again," Hunter said. "But yes, I'll make sure I don't kick the cement cans."
Hunter, now 58, has played the second violin for almost the past two decades. After 815 NHL career matches, he followed Ron Wilson as assistant coach in the league for more than 1,100 matches with stops in Washington, San Jose and Toronto, before returning to join the Capitals for a season shortened under Adam Oates.
Even in the Juniors of the World, Hunter was an assistant under Dominique Ducharme for the last two tournaments, before Ducharme was hired as assistant this year by the Montreal Canadiens.
It wasn't until 2014, at the age of 54, that Hunter finally became head coach with the Warrior Moose Jaw WHL. That made him regret.
"I look back on my coaching career and I might have been out and being a head coach long before and I still worked with Ron," Hunter said. "I like working for Ron and 14 years as an assistant coach, [but] I have to be a head coach long before. "
This is Hunter's moment on the big stage, his chance to impress as a potential potential NHL head coach.
Mike Babcock, Claude Julien, Mike Keenan, Dave King, Brent Sutter and Craig Hartsburg all trained Canada in the Junior World Championship before moving to NHL.
Training in NHL is increasingly a game of young men, but Hunter has shown that he has evolved. With Maple Leafs, Wilson and Hunter developed a reputation that they sometimes reject players.
The current generation of NHL players, and even the millennia who are being guided by Hunter, are increasingly listening. They want to be involved and involved in the process, not being told what to do.
Hunter seems to have known that.
"Last night after the match, I had points for me to say, then I went around the room and I have every player talking about his feelings about how we played so far and how they played in the game," Hunter said on Friday. "That's amazing because many people say the same thing, they have very good comments. They all know where we are headed, they all know where we need to improve. It was an extraordinary conversation. When you have a family, men can hold themselves accountable and check their egos at the door. They are honest and open about things and faces about the things we need to do. "
Don't get me wrong, Hunter still has a stick – and he's not afraid to use it. He burned down 17-year-old Alexis Lafreniere, who is expected to be number one on the NHL Draft 2020, for his game against Switzerland on Thursday night.
"He was there, skating like free skating, lots of circles in his game," said Hunter from Lafreniere. "We talked to him about it and showed him the video and explained it to him. I told him, "At the beginning of the game, you will show me whether you understand this or not. If you don't, we will limit your ice time. "
Now it depends on Hunter to re-engage younger and more classy players like Lafreniere and Joey Veleno to see if he can use the best for Canadian interests. They were chosen for a reason. They can make games that other people can't.
Really, the rest of the tournament will be about the Hunter button choosing to push, and how the team responds. He pumped them before the tournament, braked after a 14-0 win over Denmark, and now needs to pump tires on a special team.
For the third time in the last nine tournaments – a range of 47 matches – the Canadian team were beaten by their opponents in a special team.
Not only did all countries witness every Hunter movement, but also the NHL. He might never get a better punch.
But for now, Hunter says gold is the only focus.
"It means a lot. I feel honored and proud to train this team, "said Hunter." Look what happened, all of you here interviewed Team Hunter so that was a really cool thing. I believe in myself and it's an honor to be part of Canadian Hockey. "
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli