|Senators assistant coach Curtis Hunt shared a pair of golden moments at the world junior hockey championship with Ottawa head coach Craig Hartsburg. Now they're reunited in the NHL (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
In Curtis Hunt’s mind, it is the next logical step up the coaching ladder.
But the essence of it all remains the same for the Ottawa Senators assistant coach, who joined the organization this season after spending the previous seven as a bench boss with the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors and Regina Pats in his home province of Saskatchewan.
“It’s been eye-opening, that’s for sure,” Hunt said about his first National Hockey League coaching job. “In the end, the game is the same. You get pucks out, you get pucks in and generate scoring chances by being predictable within your group.
“There is an adaptation period with the speed (of the NHL game) but beyond that, you’re doing a lot of the same things and in the end, you’re dealing with people.
"That’s the part I enjoy the most.”
While it’s fair to suggest the NHL is the dream destination for many hockey coaches, Hunt doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on that.
“This is the best level and I guess the next step up is the world championship and the Olympics,” he said. “Every level is special in its own way but you never really think about it because the dream continues. You get here and it’s ‘let’s start with being competitive and then it’s let’s get to where we’re up in the standings and let’s get to where we have some playoff success and let’s get to where we have a chance at the ultimate prize.’
“You keep working every day and you never think of it in terms of ‘I’ve made it.’ I’m getting an opportunity now, so it’s important to just stay grounded and work every day and do what you can inside and outside the box to make sure our team has a chance to win every night.”
Hunt has familiar company on the Senators bench. He is back working alongside Craig Hartsburg, with whom he shared a pair of golden moments for Team Canada at the last two world junior hockey championships. Their playing backgrounds are vastly different – Hartsburg was a star blueliner for the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars, while Hunt spent nine seasons in the minors after being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1985 – but they’re clearly on the same page as coaches.
“We come from a lot different backgrounds but with a (shared) understanding of how the game should be played,” said Hunt, 42, a native of North Battleford, Sask. “I believe we’ve developed, beyond a friendship, just a trust and work ethic about how things need to get done and prepared. The most important thing of all is that we’ve had success (together).”