The Washington Times - May 14, 2012, 02:25PM

Dale Hunter knew when he signed a contract through the end of this season that there might be a chance he would not return to the Washington Capitals. General manager George McPhee knew it, too.

So it didn’t come as much of a surprise to McPhee on Monday morning when Hunter told him he would not return as coach and instead would go back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

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“He is going to head back to London. I guess we’re all fathers and sons and husbands first before anything else,” McPhee said. “If we have our priorities right in this life that family comes first. Dale needs to go home.”

That’s what Hunter is doing, after talking to family members and making the “tough decision.” He and his brother Mark co-own the Knights, and Dale Hunter is team president and had served as coach.

It’s unclear what Hunter’s status will be with London next season, but the Caps will have to start over. For the 51-year-old, he’s heading back to the Knights and his farm in Petrolia, Ontario.

“Everybody is a part of the team there, the farm is there, so we’re all a part of it there,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to go home.”

Players reacted with disappointment.

“I really wanted to see him back here next year, but unfortunately he’s not,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “So it’s not good.”