Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mark Hunter

Born in Petrolia, Ontario, Mark Hunter was the youngest of the three Hunter brothers to play in the NHL. Dave was the oldest and is best known for his role playing days with the great Edmonton Oilers. Dale was considered to be the best of the three. He was the heart and soul of the Quebec Nordiques and Washington Capitals before closing out his career with the Colorado Avalanche. By the way, Tim Hunter, who also played during the 1980's, was not related to the Petrolia Hunters.

The Hunter brothers were known for playing an abrasive, penalty filled game. They were all chippy and scrappy players, though none were by any stretch considered to be a heavy weight. But they were also all key players on their respective teams. They all were solid defensively and put up decent numbers offensively.

No one ever suggested any of the Hunters made it to the NHL based on their talent more than their aggressive style of crash and bang hockey. Mark was maybe the least talented of the three. He was strong on his feet but lacked agility and balance to be a good skater. His best talent was his shot. He had a booming shot from the slot and he loved to use it. He scored 42 more goals than assists in his career. He never handled the puck very well and didn't use his linemates effectively. His attitude was to shoot first and ask questions later.

Mark was as strong as horse and that helped him play in the NHL as long as he did. The biggest of the three brothers, Mark was at times a great corner man, creating havoc because of his hardnosed play. However he lacked consistency in that aspect of his game.

No one ever questioned the desire or work ethic of either Dave or Dale, but they often questioned Mark's. Maybe it was his plodding skating style or his inconsistent play, but Mark's stay in each NHL city he played in was always short. Also, due mostly to his hardnosed style of play, Mark was very injury prone. He never played a full season.

Mark was drafted in 1981 by the Montreal Canadiens 7th overall. He was selected directly ahead of Grant Fuhr. Al MacInnis and Chris Chelios were also chosen that year.

He had a decent rookie season in 1981-82 when he scored 18 goals and had 143 PIM in rather limited ice time. However the following two seasons would be disasters for Mark. Severe injuries caused him to play in only 53 of a possible 160 games in those two seasons. Missing so much ice time early on his career really set Hunter's development back, which partially explains why Hunter became somewhat one dimensional as a shooter/banger.

Mark had a healthy 4th season in Montreal in 1984-85. He scored 21 goals but just 33 points. The Habs gave up on Mark in the summer of 1985. Injuries had cost a once promising career to become quite limited in their opinion. They gave him to St. Louis in a deal which saw a ton of draft picks swapping.

The move to St. Louis proved to be a great move for Mark as he proved Montreal wrong. In 1985-86 Hunter scored a career high 44 goals and 74 points while adding 171 well-earned penalty minutes. He had a strong playoff that spring as well, scoring 7 goals and 14 assists as the St. Louis Blues were the surprise of the post season.

Hunter continued to score at a good clip the next two seasons. He scored 36 and then 32 goals before he was traded to the Calgary Flames in the summer of 1988. Hunter was packed with Doug Gilmour (and Steve Bozek and Michael Dark) in the big trade for Mike Bullard, Craig Coxe and Tim Corkery.

Hunter played more of a third line role in Calgary, thus affecting his offensive output. Playing behind names like Joe Mullen and Hakan Loob, Hunter potted 22 goals and just 8 assists in 1988-89. 1989 of course was the first time that the Calgary Flames captured the Stanley Cup. However by playoff time Mark was a scratch more often than not during the playoffs. He appeared in 10 of 22 games but was used sparingly even in those 10 games.

After being scratched for 12 playoff games it came as no surprise that Mark's days in Calgary were numbered. However serious knee surgery put any relocation plans and his career on hold. Mark appeared in just 10 games in 1989-90.

Mark came back to play regularly in 1990-91 with the Flames. But he clearly didn't have the same offensive zest and seemed to have lost a step after the knee surgery. Prior to the trading deadline Hunter was traded to Hartford in exchange for Carey Wilson, a former Flame.

Hunter played the next season in Hartford before being traded to Washington in exchange for Nick Kypreos. Hunter only played 7 games with the Caps and actually finished his career in the minor leagues.


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