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The Man They Call Sharkey

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
When a truly beautiful woman walks into the room, she can produce audible gasps.

Same goes for Maple Leafs assistant coach Tim Hunter.

It’s his nose. It’s magnificent. If it worked as good as it looked, he could smell food before it’s even cooked

In a game full of noses knocked around by pucks and sticks, Tim Hunter’s nose is the CN Tower, a monument to excess.

I say this because I too have a rugged, ambitious nose. Both of us take comfort in the fact that somewhere in the world, someone is pushing a piece of paper with one of our faces across to the desk to a plastic surgeon and saying “can you make me look like this?”

Oh, yes, size matters and I know what you’re thinking. Of course Tim Hunter’s nose starts in 416 and ends in 905. He racked up more than 3,000 penalty minutes and fought every tough guy over 16 NHL seasons.

Not at all. Like me, Tim Hunter was a big-time winner in the genetic crapshoot.

“I don’t know how many times but it has been broken, but the thing is, both my mom and my father have large noses,” Hunter said. “My mom has a really large one. No pun intended, it does run in the family.

“We have three boys in the family and two of us have our mother’s nose,” Hunter said. “This is my mom’s nose.”

“My Mom was a Schoeppe and they say you know a Schoeppe because they’re the one blowing their nose in a bedsheet.”

By the time he was eight or nine, people were asking Hunter to put their cigarettes in his mouth in the rain. His nose, the joke went, would shield the smokes.

Naturally, invitations to fight in the NHL were usually set up with a nose joke. This never failed to draw a yawn from Hunter.

“Anytime anyone makes a comment about my nose, it’s not like I haven’t heard it before,” Hunter said. “I’m always looking for some new humour.”

His nose even begat Hunter’s longstanding nickname.

“I was with the Calgary Flames and we had a day off in LA. We all went down to the pool and we had a competition to see who could go furthest under the water. I had won because I was a good swimmer and I could hold my breath well. I’m lying on my back, gloating, and Jim Peplinski yells: “There’s a shark in the pool.”

“That’s my nickname. Sharkey.”
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