Dale Hunter is a stoic player who keeps his feelings under wraps in good times and bad.
But yesterday, after emerging from a team meeting in which Washington Capitals general manager David Poile announced the center had been named to the NHL All-Star team as a special selection by commissioner Gary Bettman, Hunter was anything but stoic.
"I don't know what to say," said Hunter, 36, his eyes moist, his voice catching. "Give me a few minutes."
Hunter and Philadelphia Flyers center Dale Hawerchuk were the commissioner's choices on the Eastern Conference team for the Jan. 18 game in San Jose, Calif.
It is Hunter's first All-Star selection in a 17-year career, and he'll join teammate and right wing Peter Bondra, who was named to the Eastern squad last week.
"You're shocked, surprised," said Hunter, the Capitals' third-leading scorer this season with eight goals and 17 assists. "But I was selected to go, and when it happens you're so stunned you don't know what to say."
Hunter spent his first seven seasons in the league with the Quebec Nordiques and has been with the Capitals for the past 10. He has been the heart and soul of both teams and currently wears the captain's "C" on his Washington sweater.
Opponents recognize Hunter as a premier checker and hard-nosed player, and he still may be best known for his late hit on ex-New York Islanders star Pierre Turgeon during the 1993 playoffs.
Turgeon broke his collarbone, and Bettman handed Hunter the longest suspension for an on-ice incident in NHL history: 21 games.
"When the suspension ended, the matter was over, and his career was viewed in its totality," Bettman said. "And that makes him an All-Star this year."
Said Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson: "I think it's 13 or 14 years too late."
Hunter is second in all-time penalty minutes with 3,274, but he also has totaled more than 20 goals in nine different seasons and has 1,062 points in regular-season and postseason play.
Opponent: New York Rangers
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Time: 7: 30
TV/Radio: Ch. 50/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)
Outlook: The Capitals will go with Olie Kolzig (5-7-3, 2.51 goals-against average) in goal. It will be the first time Kolzig has started three straight games since the 1995 lockout season. The Caps are 2-1-2 in their past five games and are undefeated in their past three. Before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, last night, the Rangers had been undefeated in their previous seven games.
Pub Date: 1/09/97