Feb 10, 2005
In an era of giants and one-armed fighters came Tim Hunter. He was not the tallest, nor the biggest, but one of the strongest and most likely the best conditioned of his breed. He was the best technical fighter in his era and arguably the best technical fighter of all-time. Hunter used the cross-grab technique to perfection and used his stamina and strength to his advantage. He possessed a stiff punch, a solid chin, and exceptional balance.
Hunter forged a 17-year career in the NHL in which he is one of only nine men in history to accumulate over 3000 penalty minutes and one of few to near 200 fighting majors. He helped his team to three Stanley Cup Finals and one Championship, all the while providing a unique blend of toughness, intimidation and a fabulous fighting record. Since retiring as a player, Hunter has gone on to impart his knowledge of the game to other players, ensuring that his legacy will live on.
Unfortunately, the near methodical nature of Hunter's immense success as a fighter and comparatively unimposing build has led to him fading from memory in some ci rc les. Moreover, Hunter suffered from limited exposure on a west coast team during the 1980s. The net result is that fans continually seem to give more press to the bigger, more exposed tough guys of the period. In reality, Hunter fought all these bigger men, beat most of them and has remained a fixture in the NHL as a player or coach for the past 23 seasons.
DesRosiers: Many people look at you as a player who possessed arguably the best stamina of all-time, was anything special you did to improve your stamina in terms of training?
Hunter: I always tried to be the most fit player on my team and believed that fitness was going to be an advantage I had over other players.
DesRosiers: You were drafted by the Atlanta Flames - being from Calgary, were you looking forward to possibly playing so far from home; and what was it like after finding out Atlanta was relocating to Calgary?
Hunter: Being drafted to Atlanta was not a problem, I just wanted to get a chance to play. When the team moved to Calgary , it became a dream come true playing in my home town.
DesRosiers: Early in your career, '82-83, you fought the legendary Nick Fotiu. Do you recall this fight? And can you describe the events that transpired?
Hunter: I fought Nick in MSG late in the game after I had beaten up Don Maloney. He speared me at the face-off and then dropped his gloves and stepped back. I dropped mine after thinking this would be a tough fight. I took a small step and he reached out and drilled me on top of my helmet and I was thankful I had one on, or I would have had a serious head ache. That was about it, my helmet exploded and I just held on. I learned not to walk into a punch.
DesRosiers: Over the years you've had some intense rivalries against certain players. Most noticeably being Dave Semenko who you fought 6 times. There is an excerpt in Semenko's book Looking Out For Number One which comments on your battles:
"It was almost a script, I'd be fighting Tim Hunter…. I wasn't afraid of Hunter and he wasn't afraid of me. There was never any big winner in our fights. Most of the time we came away with draw… Hunter is very strong, keeps himself in tremendous physical condition, he was probably a lot stronger than me....he would grab hold of my right arm and force me to trade lefts with him....but they weren't very fast and were easy to duck. I could see them coming for days...I think the only decent punch I landed on him...the linesman let my arm go....and I got him flush in the middle of his forehead and he went straight over backwards."
Could you comment on your rivalry with Semenko? And are there any other players you had a fighting rivalry with?
Hunter:Well I fought Dave Semenko more than 6 times, maybe 10 times. He was very crafty and big, and yes I remember the punch he hit me in the forehead and learned from that incident that, "there is no code." I had a number of other guys I had many fights with including McSorley, Kyte, Brown and Cronin. You had to be ready to be at your best or you were in trouble with any of these guys.
DesRosiers: Speaking of rivalries, what was it like to be involved in the "Battle of Alberta"? Also, this year, Calgary fans were rated #1, what is your take on playing in Calgary, the fans, and the environment?
Hunter: The Battle of Alberta was very intense and you always felt it when you went around town and read the papers. The rivalry made us better and made the games very fun and exciting. The Flames fans were great and stood behind us even though we didn't always win those games.
DesRosiers: Back to a fight-related question. Did you often give rookies a shot to make an impression? In one incident you gave Rob Ray the opportunity and you really taught the youngster a lesson!
Hunter: I gave guys chances but only if it was warranted; I never fought to just fight. It seemed that every year the guys got bigger and bigger and were watching tape and knew what the older guys did. I was one of the first fighters to switch hands and try some of my famous moves.
DesRosiers: What was it like fighting Dave Brown? You two had a legendary trash-talking incident in Calgary and you two fought 4 times in your career. Where would you rank Brown in terms of toughness and fighting ability?
Hunter: Dave Brown was a serious threat to break your face as a fighter. I knew this and fought him very cautiously. He ranks very high on my list. He was strictly a lefty and that hurt him in some ways, but he definitely was a guy you didn't want to trade punches with. I saw him crush both Stu Grimson's and Jim Kyte's orbital bones. I had warned them not to trade punches with him because Dave rarely missed with his punches.
DesRosiers: What happened during the huge Calgary – Buffalo brawl in '91-92 in which you injured your leg?
Hunter: That game was pay back for Jamie Macoun, after his high stick that broke Lafontaine's jaw. They were going to make him pay, we had a line brawl and I had a guy named Miller and my old friend Colin Paterson jump on my back from behind and I collapsed and sat on my ankle and it broke.
DesRosiers: What is your account of the big war between the Canucks and Jets in '94-95 where Peca hit Selanne late and all hell broke loose?
Hunter: The Vancouver-Winnepeg event was just that, Peca hit Selanne clean and not only hurt Selanne but he broke his own jaw at the same time. I love that guy, he plays the game the way it should be played. The first game back from his jaw injury he nailed someone else and we had a big brawl. It was just another team sticking up for their player.
DesRosiers: In the '94 playoffs did you plan to lay-out Doug Gilmour or was it a spur of the moment thing?
Hunter: The hit on Gilmour was something we wanted to do, since he was a key to their team and we felt if we banged him we could get him off his game. I was familiar with the way he used the net and everything fell in line for what I was trying to do.
DesRosiers: You were involved in three Stanley Cup runs. A loss to Montreal in '86, a win against Montreal in '89, and a loss to the Rangers in '94. Any special memories there?
Hunter: The Stanley Cup is what all boys dream about and to play in the finals is as good as it gets. Every day in the finals is heaven to a player and I lived many of those days.
DesRosiers: How did you start your coaching career in Washington, a team you never played for?
Hunter: I wanted to coach after my playing career and let a lot of people know. I knew George McPhee and Ron Wilson from Vancouver and they knew I wanted to coach so it was a natural fit.
DesRosiers: In your various coaching stints, do you work with the enforcers on the team in regards to fighting techniques and so forth? If so, who in particular have you worked with?
Hunter: As a coach I have passed on some of my ideas and methods to young guys. There have been many, but the first guys were Stu Grimson and Sandy McCarthy. Each player that fights has his own way and sense of how to defend and try to win a fight, so I have just tried to give them some experience that I have gained over the years.
DesRosiers: Since we're on the subject of coaching, do you have any future plans in terms of coaching?
Hunter: Coaching hockey is a great passion of mine and I would love to be a head coach some day but I will be patient and wait for the right chance.
DesRosiers: A lot of people include you in their top 10 fighters of all time. Where do you see yourself from an ‘all-time' perspective?
Hunter: I don't know about a number place but I think pound for pound I was one of the best fighters. I fought everyone and held my own, I was never knocked out, and didn't go down too many times from a punch
DesRosiers: What is your take on the fighters/enforcers of today?
Hunter: The fighters today are bigger and tougher, but it is harder to get the job done these days. There is less respect today than there once was. I have never believed there was or is a code. I have been sucker punched a number of times, jumped from behind, had my eye nearly gouged out, and kick-kneed. Saying that, today's players seem to be under greater pressure and the stakes are so high they are reckless and have no respect for the damage they can do. The day is coming where a player is going to be killed in a fight.
DesRosiers: What are your hobbies and past-times outside of hockey?
Hunter: My hobbies are fly fishing, computers, flying, and traveling.
I'd like to thank Tim for taking the time to answer questions from myself and the members of hockeyfights.com.
Photo credit goes to PJ of Sharkspage.
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