Dick Hunter – patriarch of Lambton’s first family of hockey – dies

In this January 2020 photo taken by Karen Cook, Dick Hunter of Oil Springs watches as his sons, Dale and Mark, lead Team Canada to the World Junior Championship.

The patriarch of Lambton’s first family of hockey has died.

Dick Hunter, the father of NHL veterans Dave, Dale and Mark Hunter, passed away yesterday at the age of 87.

To say hockey was the senior Hunter’s passion was an understatement. He admitted in a 2014 interview with CTV that hockey is pretty much all the family talks about.

Hunter was well known around hockey circles when his boys were young. He was their minor hockey coach and watched as his boys climbed the ranks of the Ontario Hockey League and NHL.

At each stop along the way, the brothers would get a hockey jacket for their dad. Mark played in Brantford in his OHL days and then with Montreal, St. Louis, Calgary, Hartford and Washington. Dale provided two OHL jackets – Kitchener and Sudbury – and then three more from the NHL playing days; Quebec, Washington and Colorado. Dave’s OHL Jacket was from Sudbury and then NHL jackets from Edmonton – where he won three Stanley Cups – Dallas, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.

When Mark and Dale moved into the coaching world, there were more jackets, from the St. John’s Maple Leafs and the Sarnia Sting.

When Mark and Dale bought the London Knights in 2000, Hunter became a fixture around the club.

Dick Hunter, centre, with Dale and Mark and family as they celebrated the London Knights 2016 Memorial Cup win.

In a 2014 interview, CTV Blogger Kathy Rumleski wrote “He never misses a London Knights game and he just may be the most popular man around the organization. He’s known by security staff, bartenders, players and fans alike at Budweiser Gardens.”

Mark and Dale broke the news about their father’s passing on the Knight’s social media page saying “The London Knights organization and Hunter Family are mourning the loss of Richard Hunter, father of Ron, Dave, Karen, Dale, Carol, Mark and grandfather to many grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Among those grandchildren is Meghan Hunter – assistant general manager with the Chicago Blackhawks.

As Mark and Dale’s team excelled, Hunter was there to watch. And when the brothers were behind the bench coaching the Canadian Juniors to gold in 2020, the family gathered in Hunter’s Oil Springs home to watch the game.

But, according to a report in the London Free Press in January 2020, as Dale approached his 800th career victory as coach, Hunter’s grandson talked about those games.

“He’s got an old TV and the volume doesn’t go very high,” Knights assistant Dylan Hunter said of his grandfather’s farm near Petrolia in the London Free Press article. “So, if he can’t hear, then guys start getting kicked out. We have some outdoor-voice people in our family. It’s a tradition. Let’s gather round and watch, but a few guys were getting kicked out.”

Dick Hunter recounted watching that gold medal game to The Independent in 2020. “He said “We had’er full here and they all went wild,” he said of the moment with Akil Thomas steered the puck into the Russian net with just 3:58 left in the game. “The grandkids all went wild.:

And while the former scout no doubt watched the play on the ice with interest, he mentioned his son’s reaction to The Independent. Hunter said he’d never seen his son, Dale, so emotional.

Dick didn’t ask about that moment Dale had behind the bench moments after the win. The coach is generally stoic, rarely cracking a smile, but as the time ran out, there were tears in his eyes and a big smile on his face as he hugged the coaching staff.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him get that emotional,” Hunter told The Independent at the time.

Rumleski in that CTV News blog post, asked Dick Hunter what was the secret to his family’s success in hockey.

“The reason they’ve had such success? Hard work. That’s the biggest thing is hard work,” Hunter told Rumleski. That and lots of time on the ice. “Just throw them out and let them go and the best will come out of them.”

In his obituary, the Hunter family said Dick was a family man with a passion for farming and hockey.

“He and Mom enjoyed a simple farming lifestyle on their Oil Springs farm.

“Dad was an original builder of the Petrolia Minor Hockey system in Petrolia, passionately coaching many young boys in the area, including his sons. His love of the game helped fuel his sons to achieve elite hockey status, with all playing Major Jr A hockey and Dave, Dale and Mark playing in the NHL.

“He was proud supporter of the London Knights hockey club. Dad was excited to see his grandchildren, and now great grandchildren learning the game, and some venturing into the business. Dad was always up for a discussion about farming and hockey.”

A private family funeral will be held and a celebration of life will take place at the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Community Centre from 1 to 7 pm Friday.