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They weren't nice but they were all-timers


By Steve Dryden, Editor-in-Chief
The Hockey News, 9/17/99

The retirement of hockey's Y3K Bug deserves to be more than a footnote at century's end.

It deserves to be recognized when Dale Hunter, one of five players in NHL history to earn more than 3,000 penalty minutes, becomes eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hunter should be elected to the shinny shrine - if not three years from now when his name is placed on the ballot for the first time, then not long after.

The only man in NHL history to collect the triple-300 goals, 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes-has earned the ultimate career achievement award. He should receive hockey's highest honor after a career full of dishonorable conduct.

Over 19 seasons, Hunter ranked among the sport's truly loathsome characters. He was mean-spirited, criminal with his stick and seldom seen when the gloves were dropped. In short, combined with his underrated hands and vision, plus superior defensive work, Hunter was a force to be reckoned with. He was the ultimate team player, a heart-and-souler whose spirit lifted teammates and deflated the opposition. Hunter would and could do just about anything to win. He was a take-no-prisoners player in a league that holds those players in higher regard than those who don't acknowledge hockey's heart of darkness would like.

Dale Hunter - and this, for a puck pacifist, is hard to say - was a winner.

So, too, was another 5-foot-10 warrior who also entered the NHL in 1980-81 and should exit via the Hall of Fame. Dino Ciccarelli, one of the all-time great scorers, leaves with the ninth-most goals ever (608), two behind two legends, Bobby Hull and Mark Messier. Ciccarelli, like Hunter, played the role of villain often during his 19-year career. His act was more palatable than Hunter's, but it was Ciccarelli who spent a day in jail for slamming his stick down on Luke Richardson's head. (Hunter received a 21-game sentence by the NHL war crimes commission in 1993.)

That Ciccarelli and Hunter both collected so many points proved wrong one of hockey's most trusted maxims: You can't score from the penalty box.

Each excelled in the playoffs. Neither suffered from breathing problems when collars tightened around them. Ciccarelli holds the record for most playoff goals by a rookie, 14 in 1981. And consider this about him: Of the top 15 scorers ever, only three have higher goals-per-game averages during the playoffs than regular season. They are Messier, Jari Kurri and Ciccarelli, future Hall-of-Famers one and all