No rest for weary as Knights brass refocus after World Juniors win
LONDON, ONT. -- It was business as usual for London Knights brass as they returned to Budweiser Gardens on Tuesday.
Dale Hunter was on the ice running practice, while Chris Maton was in the dressing room getting players' equipment ready. Upstairs in his office, Mark Hunter was on the phone and doing his duties as general manager.
All that was going on as they soaked up the reality that six members of the junior organization returned from the World Junior tournament with gold medals around their necks.
"It was special to have a group of players who are London-based," says Mark Hunter. "But it was special for all of Canada. We saw how excited the whole country was about what happened in that game."
Despite being vocal about wanting to be the bench boss for Canada, Dale Hunter was never given the opportunity.
But when Mark was placed in charge of Hockey Canada's team, he knew his older brother was the man for the job.
"We had some turmoil with players getting injured and suspended but he doesn't get fazed," adds Mark. "It's always calm, cool move on and that's 'coach.'"
Dale is usually on as even a keel on the bench as any coach, but you could see the unbridled joy when the championship game against Russia ended.
"He was choked up on the bench," says Chris Maton, equipment manager for the Knights and Team Canada. "I could see he was holding it back a bit. He's usually stone-faced, but winning meant a lot to him."
Mark agrees that it's rare to see his brother veer from usual demeanor.
"I think the players enjoyed him being that excited. Liam (Foudy) and Connor (McMichael) were excited to see him being excited, and being a part of that moment. I'm sure Dale will have that in his memory for a lifetime."
When asked about those final seconds ticking down, Dale smiles.
"When something is so tough to win, you appreciate winning more," says the Knights head coach.
"We knew each other for a long time, worked together and we're friends. We know how hard it is to win, and when you win together it's special."
Maton says the trip consisted of long hard days, and a month away from home is a long time. In the end he says it was well worth it.
"When Mark asked me to go it was special," says Maton. "Of all the trainers they could have taken they picked me. It's been a long time coming and it was a lot of fun. "
While Mark was overseas he was still thinking about the club back in London. He was in conversation daily with assistant general manager Rob Simpson as the OHL trade deadline is later this week. When asked if they were going to be active in acquiring players, Mark wasn't sure yet.
"We might tweak something here and get better. But I don't want to say that and then not do it ,so we'll see, It's quiet but it might open up."
Hockey Canada will have a few months before they name the next person to run the World Junior Team. When asked if he would do it again, Dale said they are still looking back at the win and 'how special it is" rather than thinking about next year.
Mark says it's still too early to know, "There are lots of good candidates, but we'll see."
The popular wisdom is that if Dale wants to return, the job will be his after that impressive performance in Czech Republic.