Dean Evason was just a kid – 21 years old and playing his first full season in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers. But something got into him on Dec. 31, 1985.
He decided to fight known tough guy Dale Hunter, who was with the division-rival Quebec Nordiques at the time.
“We played the same type of game, obviously. I remember that night we were checking their line,” Evason said. “It’s just one of those things that happens.”
And then it happened again. And another time. Evason and Hunter fought three times in that one game, all in the second period.
Evason, now an assistant on Hunter’s staff with the Capitals, laughed about it.
“I think the [first] time we went to the faceoff circle and he asked me, and the [second] time when I come out – our coach was Jack ‘Tex’ Evans – and he said ‘OK, you guys go to check them.’ I was like, ‘OK,’. Third time we just looked at each other,” Evason recalled. “There was nothing said. And we just dropped the puck and fought.”
Rules prevented the two from dropping the gloves a fourth time, as both were ejected.
“You get kicked out at the time. I do remember being really sore after – your neck and stuff,” Evason said. “That’s a lot of wrestling. But yeah – it’s good memories.”
Hunter laughed, smiled and said that after three bouts with Evason: “I finally gave up. He beat me up three times so I finally gave it up.”
Evason made the same point about getting beat up three times.
“Whatever. I lost a lot of fights,” he said. “But I won a couple.”
Without the aid of video on YouTube, the answer probably lies somewhere in between. On the same staff now, Evason said the players were bugging them about fighting each other.
For what it’s worth Hunter and assistant Jim Johnson fought twice, too.
Between that night and Hunter’s addition to the Caps’ staff Monday, the two have discussed the whole situation and shared good laughs about it.
“Him and I we talked about it years ago in an adult establishment with some beers and discussed it,” Evason said. “He says we were trying to make a living. And that’s how it was. Fortunately we were both able to make a living.”
Hunter picked up some respect for Evason with those fights and understood why the tensions boiled over.
“We were in the same division, so a lot of heat gets involved in these games,” Hunter said. “That’s the way hockey should be – emotional in the big games.”