Islanders-Newsday 5-1-2002 (6)
- View SourceHunter a star pupil during crash course
By Alan Hahn
May 1, 2002
Toronto - Trent Hunter didn't have time to consider the street fight
he found himself pulled into when he was called up from Bridgeport to
join the Islanders in the midst of their first- round series with the
Toronto Maple Leafs. In a matter of hours, he got the call, drove to
Long Island and found himself in uniform for Game 4 of the heated
series. It was the 21-year-old's NHL debut.
"The first little while, you're just walking around and you're not
really believing what's happening," he said. "It's something that you
dream about growing up, to get the chance to play in the Stanley Cup
playoffs. It's just been unbelievable."
Hunter, who was filling in for injured forward Brad Isbister, showed
impressive poise and was aggressive offensively. As coach Peter
Laviolette put it, "his hands and his head." In Game 5, he scored his
first NHL goal in the 6-3 loss. He finished the series with a total
of two points (getting an assist in Game 6) in four games.
"The coaching staff was good to me from the start," he said. "They
said to just go out and play your game and don't worry about making
mistakes. Just do your best. So that made me more comfortable.
"Going into Game 4, the crowd was so amazing and the atmosphere was
something I had never seen before. So it was a little overwhelming
from the start. But after a few shifts, I started to get more
His parents, Stan and Cathy, flew to Long Island from Red Deer,
Alberta, to see him play in Game 6 at the Coliseum. Last night was
Game 7 at Air Canada Centre and Hunter said before the game he felt
more settled. Of course, his season is not over with the Islanders' 4-
2 loss last night. He'll return to Bridgeport, the top seed in the
AHL playoffs, which is leading its second-round series 3-0 over the
St. John's Maple Leafs (coincidentally Toronto's farm club).
He's keeping an eye on that situation, while his Sound Tigers
teammates have kept an eye on him. "I've talked to a number of them
since I've been up," Hunter said. "They've been good. I get some
ribbing for stuff they see on TV. But they're a great bunch of guys.
We're really close. Whenever anyone got called up, the guys were
always happy for him."
The Islanders picked up Hunter after the 1999-2000 season in a trade
with Anaheim, which made him its fourth-round pick in 1998 but
decided not to sign him. He would have re-entered the draft that
summer, but the Islanders signed him to a three-year contract. After
a quiet rookie season with Springfield of the AHL in 2000-01, Hunter
has had a breakout year in Bridgeport. He had a team-high 30 goals
and 65 points in 80 regular-season games and was leading the team
with a goal and seven assists in four playoff games until he was
It was Hunter's first official call-up and quite possibly could be
his last. His focus is on the playoffs for now, but there is an
obvious anticipation for training camp in September. He didn't want
to talk about his hopes for next season before last night's game had
been played. But after the confidence-building experience in the
playoffs, he is aware of the opportunity ahead of him.
"For me, it'll be a big summer," he said. "I've gotta work hard and
come into training camp ready to do the best I can."