- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2000

The Washington Capitals and retired team captain Dale Hunter severed ties once again yesterday and this time it could be permanent.

Hunter, who had been serving as director of player development since he retired as a player at the end of the 1998-99 season, resigned from that position in accordance with NHL bylaws which state, in essence, that a man cannot serve two masters.

On Monday Hunter and his brother Mark (also a former Cap) completed their $3.8 million purchase of the London Knights, a Junior A team in the Ontario Hockey League. Completion of that deal meant Dale Hunter had to sever any ties he had with NHL teams.

Dale Hunter said yesterday that not being on an NHL payroll for the first time since the summer of 1980 was painful but claimed it was time to move on. He had his family to consider and the opportunity with the Knights was too good to pass on.

"It's a family thing," Dale said. "My wife will be there working with me, my dad [Dick], my brother [Mark, the co-owner]. But not being a part of Washington, though, I don't know. [General manager] George McPhee, [principle owner] Ted Leonsis, [club president] Dick Patrick, all these people have been very, very good to me and my family. They're good people, that's the hard part, walking away like this. I feel like I've almost let them down."

After Hunter ended his brief stint with Colorado, where he tried for one last shot at a Stanley Cup, he was approached about joining the Caps' front office. The team had been planning to create a position for some time an official who would watch over draftees from the day they were picked until the day they joined the Caps as players. The person would monitor their progress on and off the ice and nip any bad habits in the bud.

"The position hadn't been filled because we hadn't found the special person needed to fill the job," McPhee said yesterday, confirming that Hunter had submitted an emotional resignation. "There was this huge void between draft day and the day these kids became pros and we've felt for a long time somebody should be there for these kids.

"Dale was made for the job, I guess that's the best way I can put it," McPhee said. "It was beneficial for our young kids, it was beneficial for our staff and it was something that I know Dale enjoyed tremendously. It was difficult [yesterday] to talk to him about walking away. I told him I wasn't disappointed that he did this, it's great for him and his family and it's going to be great for hockey with him and his brother running a team. But it's a huge loss for us."

The Hunter brothers closed on the purchase at 4:15 p.m. Monday. It ended a long and at times painful process where the Hunter offer was almost matched by the holders of the right of first refusal. The two brothers spent yesterday learning how to be owners and preparing for the June 3 OHL draft.

The brothers said that Gary Agnew, coach and general manager of the Knights, would remain in his positions while they grew accustomed to the business side of running a hockey team.

"That's another thing," McPhee said. "Even if it wasn't for the NHL bylaws, it would really be difficult for Dale to work for the Caps because of the time commitment required by his junior team."

The Caps retired Hunter's No. 32 jersey on March 11, which came before a 4-2 win over New Jersey.

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