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Photo Credit: Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Top 100 Oilers: Dave Hunter (25)

Dave Hunter could have and probably should have, started his NHL career as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him 17th overall in the 1978 amateur draft. He’d instead make his debut with the Edmonton Oilers after signing with an upstart outfit that included a skinny kid named Wayne Gretzky here in Alberta for what would turn out to be the WHA’s final season.

Then, in the kind of horse trading we will see in the upcoming expansion draft involving Las Vegas, Hunter stuck with the Oilers after the WHA merger with the NHL. The Canadiens agreed not to grab Hunter back in a reclamation draft in exchange for the Oilers agreeing not to pluck Rod Langway, Bill Nyrop, or Gilles Lupien from them in the 1979 expansion draft. Suffice to say, it all worked out pretty well for the Oilers and Hunter, who won three Stanley Cups here after saying “no thanks” to the Habs.

Dave Hunter

Forward
Born Jan 1 1958 — Petrolia, ONT
Height 6.00 — Weight 200 [183 cm/91 kg]

Drafted by Montreal Canadiens

Round 1 #17 overall 1978 NHL Amateur Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season Tm Lg

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

1978-79 EDO WHA

72

7

25

32

7

134

71

1979-80 EDM NHL

80

12

31

43

7

103

109

1980-81 EDM NHL

78

12

16

28

-12

98

104

1981-82 EDM NHL

63

16

22

38

33

63

124

1982-83 EDM NHL

80

13

18

31

12

120

113

1983-84 EDM NHL

80

22

26

48

25

90

117

1984-85 EDM NHL

80

17

19

36

-1

122

119

1985-86 EDM NHL

62

15

22

37

37

77

110

1986-87 EDM NHL

77

6

9

15

1

79

84

1987-88 TOT NHL

80

14

21

35

9

83

133

1987-88 EDM NHL

21

3

3

6

1

6

18

1987-88 PIT NHL

59

11

18

29

8

77

115

1988-89 TOT NHL

66

6

6

12

-8

83

87

1988-89 WIN NHL

34

3

1

4

-3

61

43

1988-89 EDM NHL

32

3

5

8

-5

22

44

10 yrs EDM NHL

653

119

171

290

98

780

942

1 yr WIN NHL

34

3

1

4

-3

61

43

1 yr PIT NHL

59

11

18

29

8

77

115

1 yr EDO WHA

72

7

25

32

7

134

71

Career NHL

746

133

190

323

103

918

1100

Career WHA

72

7

25

32

7

134

71

PLAYOFFS

Season Tm Lg

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

1978-79 EDO WHA

13

2

3

5

-2

42

1979-80 EDM NHL

3

0

0

0

7

1980-81 EDM NHL

9

0

0

0

28

1981-82 EDM NHL

5

0

1

1

26

1982-83 EDM NHL

16

4

7

11

60

1983-84 EDM NHL

17

5

5

10

10

14

1984-85 EDM NHL

18

2

5

7

5

33

1985-86 EDM NHL

10

2

3

5

7

23

1986-87 EDM NHL

21

3

3

6

4

20

1988-89 EDM NHL

6

0

0

0

-2

0

Career NHL

105

16

24

40

24

211

Career WHA

13

2

3

5

-2

42

NOTABLE

Hunter was smart enough to know he’d never be a big scorer at the NHL level. Of course, he didn’t have to be – not with Gretzky and all the other top-end talent the Oilers amassed in his first couple of seasons here. In his best season with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, Hunter managed 88 points. That came as a 20-year-old in 1977-78. For context, Bobby Smith won the OHL scoring title that season with 192 points. Gretzky had 182.

Hunter’s calling card would be that he could check opponents to distraction and play a two-way game – we call those guys 200-foot players today. Then as now, it wasn’t a very glamorous job description, but Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri pretty much had glamourous covered at the top of the marquee. Hunter, who scored 12 goals and had 43 points as a NHL rookie, figured that out pretty quickly. Find ‘em and grind ‘em would become his game.

Hunter established himself as a checker during the 1981 playoffs when the upstart Oilers shocked everybody by sweeping the Canadiens in three games in the first round. Hunter set his sights on Montreal kingpin Guy Lafleur, who was coming off a 70-point season (in just 51 games) after six straight years in which his worst total was 119 points. Lafleur managed just one assist in the series as Hunter and the Oilers waxed the Habs 6-3, 3-1 and 6-2.

THE STORY

Hunter was a member of Edmonton’s first Stanley Cup team in 1984 and also hoisted the silverware with the Oilers in 1985 and 1987 before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the blockbuster Paul Coffey deal in return for Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha, Wayne Van Dorp and Chris Joseph.

Hunter would have encores with the Oilers after being returned to Edmonton by the Penguins as compensation for Hannan being reclaimed on waivers and after a 34-game stint with the Jets in Winnipeg during the 1988-89 season. Those are sidebars, though, as Hunter made his mark as a significant role player with the talented team that came out of the WHA and eventually went on to form the NHL’s last true dynasty. That’s why he’s on this list.

When you look at championship teams and glance past the names at the top of the marquee, no matter what the sport, there are role players like Hunter who go about their business quietly and do a lot more than just fill a spot on the roster. It’s honest and necessary work. Simply put, Hunter saw more opportunity in Edmonton than he did closer to home in Montreal, so he took a chance rather than sign with the powerhouse Habs. The Oilers are glad he did.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • Rama Lama

    I remember him as being a little tank, never seemed to fall down. Never skated fast, but always seemed to be where he needed to be………the guy could also chuck em!

  • fran huckzky

    Hunts and Lummer and later Esa and The Rat. In our hay day we had our share of poop disturbers and I am happy that todays team is developing a similar culture.

  • Keepyourstickontheice

    Finally in the top quarter of these articles, thank you for writing all these Robin. I expect this is where we are going to see the discussion board light up, intense disagreement over who deserves which top(ish) spot.

    • paul wodehouse

      …gotta laff at top(ish) spot Keepyourstickontheice>>> it’s like we all know how the story of the Titanic ends no? …But who’s gonna be #3 ? ? ?

  • not so daily doug

    Hunter had 2 trademarks, his elbows. Loved to be the guy who would shut down the other teams top end talent. Go into a corner or let him crowd you along the boards and he would punish you. Every team needs these guys and glad to have his kind back on the Oil again.

  • Aitch

    Despite winning a few Cups, to me, Hunter is about 50 spots too high. Had he played at any time other than with the Boys on the Bus, I doubt he even gets included on the list.

  • The older I get, the better I was...

    Edmonton has always been hard on its players. In his early years he had a tendency to freeze the puck along the boards. He didn’t really have the skill to do much with it once he got into the offensive end and I still recall shouts of “freeze it Hunter” as he headed for the corner.

    He got much better as the years went on and was certainly a key part of the early cups but feels a bit high at 25.

  • paul wodehouse

    …oh gawd …up and down the wing up and down the wing …tough as nails I called him “The Quiet Massacre ” once at practice and he about fell down laughing …loved Huntz at Barry-Ts too…

  • paul wodehouse

    …and BTW his hometown of Petrolia is about 20minutes from my house in Glencoe pop2200 … lotta kids from around here now play in the NHL and most roads to the show went through the London Knights…or the Petes…nice pick RB

  • dolenator

    He played for our team in a tournament probably 7 or 8 years ago. Hell of a nice guy and still has some amazing hands. I was to young to watch him play in his prime but man even though he ha lost a few gears when he got th puck it was no easy task for the opposition to take it away.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Geez – I have absolutely no memory of him being back in Edmonton in 1988-89 … or of him finishing his career in The ‘Peg. Memory’s always the first thing to go.

    At any rate, #25 is absolutely appropriate for Dave Hunter, IMO. Excellent checker and role player.

    By the way, younger Oiler fans, if ever there were a perfect four-second sample of Glen Sather in his prime, go to the 0:24 mark on that posted clip of the fight-clip between Hunter and Tim Kerr. In that little conversation he’s having with John Muckler, you’ll not only see one of Sather’s excellent suits (from Sam Abouhassen, naturally), but also his Cheshire-Cat grin. Good stuff.