Hunter isn't looking to mould team in his image

Matthew Gourlie
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They say you can't judge a book by its cover.

Jack Rodewald, right, watches a young player raise the puck during the Moose Jaw Warriors Kids Camp Monday. The Camp, which is held in partnership with Canadian Tire Jumpstart runs through until Friday. Monday Rodewald and fellow current Warrior Tanner Eberle was joined by former Warriors Cody Beach and Brennen Wray and Warriors assistant head coach Mark O'Leary on the ice at Mosaic Place.

Tim Hunter is living proof.

It's hard to look at Hunter and not think 'old-time hockey', but the new head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors said fans shouldn't expect to see his team turn back the clock stylistically this season.

"I would think that people wouldn't just assume that because I was a tough guy as a player that that's how my team is going to play. I just don't see that at all," said Hunter. "I've been a coach longer than I was a player. I've coached more games than I've played. It's important to coach the team you have and what they are. 

"The No. 1 thing you have to remember as a former player is that you can't expect everyone to play the way that you played. Each guy has a different skill set and they're going to use."

Hunter was hired by the Warriors on July 17 to replace Mike Stothers who left to coach the Manchester Monarchs in the American Hockey League after three seasons with the Warriors. Hunter is settling into life in Moose Jaw as the Warriors prepare to open training camp on Aug. 20. He has been working on putting together practices and developing the team's systems. 

He has also been watching tape from last season to familiarize himself with the players, though he isn't putting too much weight on what has come before.

"I want to have a clean slate with what we're doing and approach it that way," said Hunter. "Most of these guys have played all kinds of different systems, so it won't be something that's new to them. It won't be the same as what was here before. I have my own way of doing things and there will be some changes form last year."

Stothers and assistant coach Mike Vandenberghe have both moved on and the returning players are looking to move forward after two straight seasons out of the playoffs.

"It's always exciting when someone new comes in. I know a lot of the guys are going to miss (Stothers), but I think everybody is excited to meet Tim and see what he's all about," said Warriors 20-year-old right winger Jack Rodewald. "It should be interesting. We'll have to get the first couple of games out of the way to see what his coaching style is and what kind of team we're going to go with this season."

Hunter is well remembered for his pugilism in an NHL career that leaves him sitting eighth on the NHL's all-time penalty minutes. The only aspect of his game that he expects them to emulate is their work ethic.

He wants to give his Warriors the freedom to be creative and use their skill, but he demands hard work in return.

"That's the key, you have to use as much skill as you can and as much skill as you have. I embrace creativity. We're going to try to play as creatively as possible within a system of hard work on both sides of the puck," said Hunter. "It's not going to be creativity without the honesty and the hard work on both sides of the puck. Creativity will be allowed as long as everyone is diligent in all aspects of our game."

Shortly after he was hired he called all of the Warriors returning veterans to begin the process of getting to know them. That was aided by a trip to Calgary when he was able to meet with some of the Warriors who attended Hockey Canada's under-17 and under-18 camps this summer.

"It was a good trip to go into Calgary and meet some of the parents and some of the kids. It was fun to watch that hockey as well," said Hunter. 

While it gets said every year, Rodewald said the players know there are no guarantees in the battle for roster spots. With a new head coach coming in everyone better be sharp once camp opens.

"Every year there's going to be spots open, especially coming off of a somewhat disappointing season last year. Nobody is guaranteed a spot," said Rodewald. "It's going to be a competitive camp and it's going to be interesting."

Organizations: American Hockey League, NHL, Hockey Canada

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Calgary

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