Once a player, Dale Hawerchuk now coaches the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League. Under the leadership of their veteran coach, the Colts have missed the playoffs just once and are on the verge of their fifth straight playoff appearance.
With second in the OHL’s Eastern Conference nearly locked up, it will mark the fourth straight year the team has finished among the top two spots in the Central Division. All of this has happened with Hawerchuk behind the bench.
On Friday (March 4), the long-time NHLer and current coach reached a coaching milestone as the Colts took on the Niagara IceDogs at the Meridian Centre – defeating them 6-3. It marked his 400th regular season game behind the Colts bench – in which time Barrie holds a record of 215-164-19.
While the team hasn’t made it out of the second round of the OHL playoffs (up to this point) under Hawerchuk, it’s clear that their coach has brought the same leadership he played with to his job as behind the club’s bench.
Hawerchuk played 16 seasons in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers spanning from 1981 to 1997. Over that time he notched 1,409 regular season points (518g-891a) in 1,188 games. He added 99 points (30g-69a) in 97 playoff games and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
He remains the only NHL player to reach 1,000 career games played before the age of 31 – winning the Calder Trophy in 1982 as a member of the original Jets. While he no longer plays the game (at least at a professional level), Hawerchuk knows what it takes to win at the CHL level – having won two Memorial Cup championships in 1980 and 1981 with the Cornwall Royals who were part of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) from 1969 to 1982.
With the win Friday, not only was it a celebratory night for the Colts who inched one step closer to clinching their division title, but it was an important night for Hawerchuk as he continues his path to becoming one of the OHL best all-time coaches.
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Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.