Caps honoring Hunter, scorer with a punch

Offensive stats, time in box set captain apart

March 10, 2000|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals will celebrate the career of Dale Hunter, their long-time, hard-hitting center and former captain, before playing Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey at MCI Center tomorrownight.

Though no one is saying so on the record, Hunter's No. 32 jersey is expected to become the third sweater retired in franchise history. Defensemen Yvon Labre (7) and Rod Langway (5) were the first two.

"Speculate all you want," said Capitals general manager George McPhee. "I think this is going to be as good a retirement celebration as you'll see in the business."

Hunter, 39, was often referred to as the Capitals' "heart and soul" during 12 years with the organization. He reached milestones no one would have expected of a player many in the NHL regard only as a tough guy.

Two years ago, Hunter became only the NHL's 49th player to score 1,000 points; he retired with 1,138. It is a pretty number beside his equally incredible penalty-minute total, 4,294.

Through 19 seasons before retiring after last season with the Colorado Avalanche, Hunter became the only NHL player to record 300 goals or 1,000 points while piling up 3,000 or more penalty minutes.

His 637 regular-season assists rank 34th all-time, comfortably between Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard. His 76 playoff assists put him in the company of Guy Lafleur and Phil Esposito for 31st all-time.

"I've never seen a guy play as hard as he did all the time," McPhee said. "He never picked his spots. Whether it was preseason, regular season, postseason, or just practice, Dale played every shift the same.

"I hope, one day, we're fortunate enough to draft another player like him."

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