For a certain vintage of Edmonton Oilers fan, the name Dave Semenko has and always will hold a special place in their hearts. With that said, no one held the former second-round pick in higher regard than the men who played with him during his time in the Alberta capital. Not surprisingly, all of Oil Country was taken aback by Thursday morning’s stunning announcement of his sudden passing, after he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 59.
Within minutes of the news being made the public the tributes started to pour in from former teammates via social media and a variety of other channels. While the devastated trio of Paul Coffey, Charlie Huddy, and Kevin Lowe were able to attend yesterday’s press conference at Rogers Place, others who were not so fortunate. Yet, that did not stop many from paying homage to their old pal.
Sudden Passing a Surprise to All
Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Esa Tikkanen, Mike Krushelnyski and Craig Muni were among the first to let their feelings for Semenko be known and you can bet that number will grow in the coming days. Safe to say, the shock of the news left many inside the Oilers family searching for answers and reflecting on a player who was, by all accounts, one of the franchise’s most beloved players among those who have been lucky enough to wear the Orange and Blue.
“Semenko was an amazing guy, he was a great teammate, a great friend, loved by the fans…in so many ways, said Lowe in an interview with Bob Stauffer during yesterday’s edition Oilers Now. “I really enjoyed my time with him…he always kept a smile on my face…through all the rough times and good times. We played together, worked together…off and on for 35 years. It’s tough to lose a friend…especially under these circumstance…he’ll be missed by many but especially by myself”.
No. 99 echoed a similar sentiment in a statement he released via Sportsnet:
“One of the first Oilers I met in 1978, I didn’t know at the time the impact he would have in my life and my career. He was the toughest player I knew and yet the biggest Teddy Bear you would ever know. A beloved Oiler that will be missed dearly because of his kind heart and funny sense of humour. He made us all better people. RIP # 27, thanks for your friendship.”
Teammates Loved No. 27
If you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favour and take a few minutes to watch the clip of Coffey and Huddy describing just how important Semenko was to the players inside that dressing room. You not only hear it but also see it clear as day in their eyes. In today’s world of team sports, most tend to dismiss the importance of what goes on behind closed doors. However, back in those days it did matter and this particular group of players bonded like few ever have…regardless of the sport
As much as fans focus on Semenko being one of the most feared and effective enforcers the NHL has ever seen, it is clear there was more to No. 27 than what he managed to get done when he dropped the mitts or decided to give an opponent that icy stare to quite things down. Clearly, all that was secondary to his teammates. If anything, it was his ability to keep guys loose with his sense of humour and being the man that he was that dwarfed everything else.
Unfortunately, within a matter of a few short weeks, Semenko went from being what appeared to be a healthy middle-aged man, thoroughly enjoying in his new gig as “Oilers Ambassador”, to no longer being with us. In what can only be a heartbreaking time for his family and friends, it seems only fitting that we shift the focus from Dave Semenko the enforcer and instead take to heart the words Mark Messier shared in remembering his longtime friend:
“He was a great teammate, loyal friend, loving father & worthy champion. Rest in peace, my friend”
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.