Hunter enjoys teaching the game

Matthew Gourlie
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Academy experience viewed as a big positive by Warriors

Tim Hunter has nearly 2,000 games of National Hockey League experience over 30 seasons both as a player and an assistant coach under his belt. 

Alan Millar, Moose Jaw Warriors GM, left, introduces new Warriors head coach Tim Hunter at a press conference Thursday at Mosaic Place.

However, one of the things that impressed Moose Jaw Warriors general manager Alan Millar the most about his new head coach was a year he spent in Penticton, B.C.

"There's no greater example than how he made himself ready for this opportunity than the year he spent at the Okanagan Hockey Academy coaching their midget program," said Millar. 

While Hunter has 14 seasons of experience as an assistant coach in the NHL, his only head coaching experience came at OHA during the 2011-12 season. It wasn't the success that Hunter's OHA team enjoyed, but rather his approach to the job that had Millar convinced he was the right person to coach the Warriors.

"I spoke with Andy Oakes the president there and he said Tim did the laundry, Tim picked up kids in the morning to go to school in the van and drove them to the rink and to the gym. He built relationships with players and parents. He did a lot of one-on-one video to make the players better," said Millar. "I think he did that as an NHL guy to give back, but he also looked at it as a move he needed to make as part of an apprenticeship to work with young players and to get head coaching experience.

"You know what? At the end of the day, there are a lot of guys in the game whose ego wouldn't allow them to do that. That was very, very impressive to me and really set him apart."

Hunter said he learned in Penticton how to be patient with young players.

"There is a lot going on in their lives, right from parents to girlfriends, pressure at school, pressure from other kids. You have to be patient and compassionate," said Hunter who is the father of two. "You have to remember what it's like to be in their shoes. It's different being a young adult today compared to when I was a young adult and that's why I went there — to get to know young people."

Hunter said he likes to keep on top of technology and was texting and tweeting with former players as the congratulations began to roll in after Thursday's announcement. He enjoyed building relationships and relating to the younger players he had at OHA.

"That's the part the game I love the most, the teaching part. As an NHL assistant you run the development camps in the summer for the drafted kids and the prospects. Some of the kids you have for two or three years before they make the pros. That's a lot of fun," said Hunter who recalled working with numbers young players — including Patrick Marleau and Sergei Gonchar — and watching them develop into elite players.

"It's a great experience seeing them develop and helping them develop. It's a great experience. It's nice to see them prosper today and be great NHL players."

Organizations: Okanagan Hockey Academy, NHL

Geographic location: Penticton

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