How close the Leafs were to hiring Dale Hunter instead of Craig Berube

Mike Armenti
May 20, 2024  (10:48)

Dale Hunter
Photo credit: CTV News London

The Maple Leafs' coaching search is over with the hiring of Craig Berube, but Elliotte Friedman pondered whether there was another big swing option they were looking at in London Knights coach Dale Hunter.

During Monday's edition of his 32 Thoughts podcast, Friedman revealed that while the Leafs hired Berube, and interviewed both Todd McLellan and Gerard Gallant, they may have also attempted to lure Hunter away from the OHL Champion London Knights.
"We also know they talked to Todd McLellan. We reported last week they talked to Gerard Gallant. You know who I wonder if they asked about? I don't know that it ever got to the interview stage, but I wonder if they asked about - Dale Hunter."

The London Knights are on their way to the Memorial Cup tournament this week with a chance to double up on their championships this season after winning the OHL championship last week. There's no question that Hunter is qualified in every way possible and remains a top quality candidate to take on an NHL coaching gig, but as Friedman pointed out, the media gong show in Toronto probably was not appealing to him.
"I think he's a great coach, but he would want no part of this (the Toronto media)."

His co-host, Jeff Marek, speculated that Hunter may have enjoyed the opportunity to coach Knights alumnus Mitch Marner once again, but would not have taken the job without his brother, Mark Hunter, running the team. He also mentioned that Hunter is chasing an OHL record that is pretty important to him.
"I think the temptation of coaching Mitch Marner once again is a tempting one for Dale Hunter... but, I've always been under the impression that, unless it's his brother [Mark Hunter] running and NHL team, I don't know that Dale Hunter would want to go.

I've always been of the belief, and no one has told me otherwise, that Hunter has always wanted to break Brian Kilrea's record for most coaching wins in the OHL. Right now he's number two.

He's got a great setup in London... his life's in a spot where he's really, really comfortable."

That's all water under the bridge now, as the Leafs have hired their next coach, and Berube is a quality choice in his own right. However, it does lead to a very important question about whether or not the Hunter brothers could come in as a package deal sometime down the line if the Leafs clean house again in the next 4 or 5 years.
20 MAI   |   317 ANSWERS
How close the Leafs were to hiring Dale Hunter instead of Craig Berube

Do you think we'll ever see Mark and Dale Hunter take over the GM and coaching duties for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Yes, sometime in the very distant future3511 %
Yes, and possibly even within the next 2-3 years4815.1 %
No, I can see maybe one, but not both9429.7 %
Neither guy will want to be in Toronto14044.2 %
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