The Hunter-Evason Trilogy

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

A few years back, Brett Leonhardt and I did a fun feature on fighting. We went through the Caps’ room and asked players for their recollections on their first NHL fights. It was a great video piece, and one that got some good play back when we posted it, more than two years ago. We included the coaches in that piece, and it was sure interesting to learn then that Dean Evason’s first NHL fight was against Dale Hunter. And his second, for that matter. And his third. And even more interesting to learn that those fights came in the same game, a Dec. 31, 1985 tilt between Evason’s Hartford Whalers and Hunter’s Quebec Nordiques. Not only that, those three scraps came in the same period of that game, the second stanza. I tucked that bit of info away, and it came back to me on Monday when I learned that Hunter had been hired to replace Bruce Boudreau as the Caps’ head coach. Suddenly, Hunter was Evason’s boss. I knew it would make for a good story, but also knew that in light of all that has happened in these parts of late, waiting a week or so to ask and picking the right spot (i.e. not on a game day) would work best. Yesterday, we had newly hired Caps assistant coach Jim Johnson on our weekly Capitals Report podcast. Johnson, too, fought Hunter during his playing days. Lots of guys did. By my count, Hunter had 142 regular season NHL fights over the course of his 19-season NHL career. He had seven of them in 1985-86, the last three of which were against Evason on New Year’s Eve, 1985. Deano – who had 33 career regular season scraps in his career – must have worn Dale out, because Hunter went nearly 10 months before he dropped the gloves again, an Oct. 28, 1986 bout with the Kings’ Bernie Nicholls in which Nicholls did not receive a fighting major. Anyway, we mentioned the video on the podcast. Later yesterday afternoon, someone mentioned on Twitter that they had been unable to find the link for it. So I supplied it on Twitter. It got passed around a bit, went viral a bit, and the horde of media that now covers the Caps got educated a bit on the history of the two Caps coaches. I even had a few out-of-town media types come up to me this morning and offer kudos on the video, and it’s going to be interesting to see how many views this long-dormant piece gets this week. So of course, both Hunter and Evason were asked about it today. “I finally gave up,” recalls Hunter. “He beat me up three times so I finally gave it up. We did. He was a competitor and he played hard. We were in the same division. A lot of heat is involved in these games, just like tonight. There’s a lot of heat involved. That’s the way hockey should be, emotional in big games.” Evason was a 21-year-old kid in his third season – and first full campaign—in the league while Hunter was an established miscreant, a 25-year-old in the midst of his sixth season in the league and with the Nords. “We had a few other ones down the road,” remembers Evason. “We played the same type of game, obviously. “I remember that night, we were checking their line. He was playing with [Michel] Goulet I think and probably [Anton] Stastny. I think I had [Stew] Gavin and [Paul] Lawless as a checking line. It’s just one of those things that happened. “He and I talked about it years ago at an adult establishment with some beers and discussed it. We competed; we both competed. It just came to that. That’s how he played and that’s how I played. The boys were already bugging us, talking about it and stuff. [Hunter] said, ‘We were trying to make a living,’ and that’s how it was. Fortunately we were able to make a living.” The first of those three bouts came at 6:27 of the second period. Just 24 seconds after exiting the box, the two dropped the mitts again. “Yeah, right away,” says Evason. “I think the second time, we went to the face-off circle and he asked me. The third time, when I came out, our coach was Jack ‘Tex’ Evans, and he said, ‘Okay, you guys go to check them.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ The third time, we just looked at each other. There was nothing said. We just dropped the puck and fought. It’s just one of those things.” The third fight came at 17:37 of the second. While Hunter says Evason beat him up, Evason quipped differently. “He beat me up three times,” says the Caps assistant coach. “I heard he said the same thing. I lost a lot of fights, but I won a couple. Oh, by the way, Quebec won the game, 5-1. The two teams hooked up again two nights later in Hartford in the second of the home-and-home set between the old Adams Division rivals, and the Nords won that one 3-2. There were no fistic fireworks from either player in that second game on Jan. 2, 1986. “I do remember being really sore after,” remembers Evason, “your neck and stuff. That’s a lot of wrestling. But yeah, good memories.”

next up:

The Goal is Goals

January 14, 2013

“We’re going to be a hard team to play against. We’re going to be on the puck hard, forecheck hard. Really responsible defensively, and backside pressure coming back through the neutral zone so teams can’t run and gun on you. I don’t believe in run and gun hockey, but I believe in hard playing,

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