Dale Hawerchuk, a hockey phenom who became the face of the Winnipeg Jets en route to the Hall of Fame, has died at the age of 57 after a battle with cancer.
The Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts, a team Hawerchuk coached, confirmed the death on Twitter on Tuesday.
Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk has passed away at the age of 57 after a battle with stomach cancer. The long-time Winnipeg Jets forward had 1409 career points and won the Calder Trophy in 1982. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/mW5yCs5abC
— Adam Forsythe (@adamforsythe) August 18, 2020
“After an incredibly brave and difficult battle with cancer, our dad has passed away. My family is so proud of him and the way he fought. #HawerchukStrong,” Eric Hawerchuk, one of Dale’s sons, wrote on Twitter.
A teenage star, Hawerchuk was drafted first overall by the Jets in 1981. He went on to play nine seasons in Winnipeg and five in Buffalo before finishing up his distinguished 16-year NHL career with stints in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
Hawerchuk recorded 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 regular-season games (he added 30 more goals and 99 assists in 97 playoff games).
“A low-maintenance superstar,” said Craig Heisinger, Winnipeg’s senior vice-president and director of hockey operations.
The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, our players, our alumni, and our fans will miss Dale Hawerchuk dearly, and we will forever be inspired by his passion for the game, his commitment to his team, and his love for our community. #RememberingDucky #HawerchukStrong pic.twitter.com/Vgj78TsSco
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) August 18, 2020
At five foot 11 and 190 pounds, Hawerchuk wasn’t blessed with size or blistering speed. But the five-time all-star had a knack of getting to loose pucks and then creating something out of nothing. Hawerchuk could breeze past opponents and knew what to do when he neared the goal.
Hawerchuk had been battling stomach cancer. In September 2019, he took a leave of absence from coaching the Colts to undergo chemotherapy treatment.
Eric Hawerchuk said in July on Twitter that the cancer had returned after his dad completed chemotherapy in April.
— Eric Hawerchuk (@EricHawerchuk) August 18, 2020
Dale Hawerchuk, the longest-serving coach in Colts history, was going into his 10th season behind Barrie’s bench. He had led the Colts to the playoffs in six of his nine previous seasons.
At Barrie, Hawerchuk coached the likes of Aaron Ekblad, Mark Scheifele, Tanner Pearson, and Ryan Suzuki.
Born April 4, 1963, in Toronto, Hawerchuk grew up in nearby Oshawa, getting his first pair of skates at age two and playing competitively at four. As a peewee, he broke Guy Lafleur’s record by scoring all eight goals in an 8-1 victory in the final of a tournament in Montreal.
At 15, he was offered a tryout by the Oshawa Generals. He ended up playing instead for the Oshawa Legionaires in the Metro Jr. B Hockey League in 1978-79.
Some 23 years later, he remembered his Oshawa days during his 2001 induction speech at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I started my career just down the road in Oshawa here, maybe a 45-minute drive — well maybe a little further now with the traffic,” he said. “I had many dreams and aspirations to make the National Hockey League. And I was very fortunate I got to live those dreams for 16 years in the National Hockey League.”
“I enjoyed every city and organization I played in,” he added.
Hawerchuk was highly touted coming into junior and was drafted sixth overall by the Cornwall Royals, who then played in the Quebec league but took part in the Ontario draft.
Hawerchuk led the Royals to back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1980 and ’81 with teammates that included Scott Arniel, Marc Crawford, Dan Daoust and Doug Gilmour.
Hawerchuk was named Memorial Cup MVP in 1981 when he set a tournament record with eight goals and tied another with 13 points.
He collected 103 points in being named the QMJHL’s top rookie. The next season, as a 17-year-old, he led the Quebec league in goals (81), assists (102) and points (183) when he was named Canadian major junior player of the year.
A grateful John Ferguson drafted Hawerchuk in 1981. Hawerchuk went to Winnipeg as an 18-year-old and spent nine years there, saying he felt like he grew up in the Manitoba capital.
The Jets had finished last in the league prior to drafting Hawerchuk, who signed his first pro contract before a bevy of Manitoba notables, including the mayor at the corner of Portage and Main, after arriving in a Brinks truck.