By Ben Raby
The ink was barely dry on the Washington Capitals season-ending report cards when head coach Dale Hunter announced that he would not to D.C. next season.
Less than 36 hours after Washingtons Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last May, Hunter told general manager George McPhee that he planned to return to his family and junior hockey club in London, Ontario.
Three months later, Hunter seems at ease with his decision. The former Capitals captain will return behind the London Knights bench where his 451 career wins are 10th most all-time in the Ontario Hockey League.
While Hunter looks forward to leading the Knights defense of last years OHL Championship, the former Caps captain acknowledged that his brief time as an NHL coach has given him new perspective.
It's a good life. Everything is the best," Hunter told the London Free Press at the Knights annual charity golf tournament Friday. "It's a first-class organization. Everything is taken care of for you. You go, you coach and then you play the game. You don't worry about anything else.
"What you miss the most is the pressure. You like it. You like the adrenaline, coaching in the playoffs like that, having to win every game down the stretch . . . coaching a seventh game in Boston . . . Game 7 in New York. I'm going to miss that. You have 20,000 New York fans screaming. It's a charge."
What Hunter apparently wont miss is the media.
"Every day it's a scrum, Hunter said of his dealings with the Washington media. You have to answer every question. Basically I don't feel like I have to go to the media and criticize players if they are not playing up to snuff. I do it one-on-one. Some coaches use it as a tool. Personally, when I was playing I preferred if a coach said to me 'you're playing like crap. You aren't going to play as much unless you get better.'
"I put a top-line guy on the fourth line and then I had to answer all the questions. I use it as a motivator for some guys and then it's all blown out of proportion."
Hunter was likely referring to his demoting Alexander Semin to the fourth line ahead of Game 2 against the Rangers. While Hunter had Semin skate with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin at an off-day practice, Semin was back as a top-six forward by the start of Game 2.
The former Caps coach also told the London Free Press that too much was made into his managing Alex Ovechkins ice-time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Ovi is a great offensive player but he's not a defensive guy. He got to play depending on the situation. There was nothing. We had no confrontation, no ultimatum. He didn't like it when he didn't play but no player does."
Hunter says that hes excited to be back to in London and that hes a smarter coach than when he left the OHL in late November.
"I've learned. You pick up a lot of things you don't know when you coach against the best," he said.
The Knights charity golf tournament marks the unofficial start to their 2012-13 season with training camp set to begin next week in Western Ontario. Hunters Knights then open preseason play on Friday Aug. 31, with the regular season starting Friday Sept. 21- five days after the NHL may lock out its players for the second time in eight years.
The last time there was an NHL lockout? The Knights won the 2004-05 Memorial Cup as Canadas National Champions.