Hunter's 1,000th game is no joke Caps center attains mark of a leader

April 12, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Dale Hunter considers it part of his job to welcome new players and to keep the old ones loose -- all by way of practical jokes. During the years, the Washington Capitals center has become so good at it that the victim never sees it coming, unless Hunter wants him to.

Yvon Corriveau, who spent five seasons with the Capitals before moving on after the 1990 season, never saw the scissors that snipped his tie while he was sleeping on a team flight to Los Angeles.

Garry Galley, who now plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, never saw the screwdriver used to remove the doors of his jeep.

Rick Tabaracci, who was traded to the Capitals last month, never saw . . . Tabaracci's face turns pink when asked what prank Hunter pulled.

"I can't tell you," he said, laughing. "But it certainly made me feel part of the team."

When Hunter, 32, steps on the ice tonight at the Montreal Forum for Washington's game against the Canadiens, he will be all business.

It will be his 1,000th regular-season NHL game.

"A thousand games," said Washington left wing Bobby Carpenter, who has played in 820 in his 12-year career. "When you can stay healthy like he has, you know someone is looking out for you. And with him, it's not only the number of games, but the points he has consistently scored through all those games."

In 13 years, Hunter has 839 points -- 268 goals and 571 assists. This season, his 60 assists lead the team, and his 79 points tie his all-time career high, set with Quebec in 1983-84.

He is also a tough guy, having rolled up 2,870 penalty minutes, third on the NHL's all-time list behind Dave "Tiger" Williams and Chris Nilan. In six seasons with the Capitals, Hunter has played in 476 games, missing five. Four of the misses were suspensions, the other was because of an injury.

The only thing he hasn't got that he says he wants is a Stanley Cup. His two brothers, Mark and Dave, have been on Cup-winning teams, and he'd like to join them.

"It would be nice," said Hunter, who also has played in 120 playoff games and has an additional 85 points in those games.

Hunter does many things for the Capitals. Coach Terry Murray pointed to Hunter's character and work ethic. Defenseman Sylvain Cote described Hunter as the Capitals' best forward because he produces, helps others produce and uses his body well on defense.

"And he loves the game," Cote said. "He's 36 -- I'm kidding, he's not that old. But to reach 1,000 games, that equals playing a game a day every day for 3 1/2 years. I started playing when I was 18, and if I ever reach 1,000 it will be pure luck."

Hunter, like the victims of his jokes, said he never saw any of this coming.

"When you start out playing ball hockey, street hockey, shinny on the ice, you don't think about playing in 1,000 NHL games," he said. "You start out, at least I did, thinking you're Bobby Orr or Bobby Clarke and trying to imitate their moves. I hear kids now, they're yelling, 'I'm Mario, I'm Mario!'

"I remember Ken Dryden, whenever there would be a timeout, he'd take his stick like this," Hunter said, taking a stick from the rack at Piney Orchard Ice Rink, wrapping both his hands around the top of the handle and resting his chin on top of them, just the way he remembered Montreal's Hall of Fame goalie. "As kids, whenever there was a stoppage, this is exactly what we'd do. You know, kids' stuff."

If it's kids' stuff, it's fun stuff to Hunter. When he's not busy with his work or with his pranks, he usually can be found at home playing with his three children. Often, that means being in the garage playing "hockey" with 7-year-old Dylan and kids from the neighborhood.

"We have our own nets, and we use tennis balls for pucks," Hunter said.

"If the neighbors see the car out on the street, they know a hockey game is going on."

And that Dale Hunter is in the thick of it.

HUNTER'S CAREER STATS

Sea. Team ... Ga. ... Go. ... As. ... Pts. ... PIM

'80-81 Que. .. 80 .... 19 .... 44 ..... 63 .... 226

'81-82 Que. .. 80 .... 22 .... 50 ..... 72 .... 272

'82-83 Que. .. 80 .... 17 .... 46 ..... 63 .... 206

'83-84 Que. .. 77 .... 24 .... 55 ..... 79 .... 232

'84-85 Que. .. 80 .... 20 .... 52 ..... 72 .... 209

'85-86 Que. .. 80 .... 28 .... 42 ..... 70 .... 265

'86-87 Que. .. 46 .... 10 .... 29 ..... 39 .... 135

'87-88 Was. .. 79 .... 22 .... 37 ..... 59 .... 240

'88-89 Was. .. 80 .... 20 .... 37 ..... 57 .... 219

'89-90 Was. .. 80 .... 23 .... 39 ..... 62 .... 233

'90-91 Was. .. 76 .... 16 .... 30 ..... 46 .... 234

'91-92 Was. .. 80 .... 28 .... 50 ..... 78 .... 205

'92-93 Was. .. 81 .... 19 .... 60 ..... 79 .... 194

Totals ...... 999 ... 268 ... 571 .... 839 ... 2870

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