A lot of players have suited up for the Winnipeg Jets, few have transcended time and certainly no one like Dale Hawerchuk. It is only fitting the Jets commemorate his legacy and impact on the city with the unveiling of a statue to memorialize the greatest player in franchise history. After being drafted first overall in 1981, he promptly scored 103 points on his way to winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. From that point on, he became the face of the franchise for the entirety of the 1980s.
His accolades are completely unmatched.
- Two Memorial Cup wins with the Cornwall Royals and CHL Player of the Year, 1981.
- Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, 1982.
- A five-time NHL All-Star.
- A two-time Canada Cup Champion, 1987 & 1991
- The first player to reach 1,000 career games played before the age of 31.
- Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 2001.
Hawerchuk Left His Mark on Winnipeg
Prior to their preseason game against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 1, the Jets will commemorate their greatest player by unveiling a statue in honour of the Hall of Fame legend in True North Square’s plaza. The ceremony, at the corner of Hargrave Street and Graham Avenue, is set to begin at 5:15 and is open to the public.
I think it was Dale’s arrival that really cemented the future of the franchise and I think we all have recollections of that first year, that Calder (Trophy) year and then everything that would follow. He was truly a superstar as a hockey player, but I think why he was so loved here was not just that but largely the fact that he made this his home and became one of us. I think everybody shared that sense of pride in Dale’s career as a player.”– Mark Chipman, when asked about Hawerchuk’s legacy
Hawerchuk became more than an admired player, as he became part of the fabric of Manitoba. He was a Winnipegger not just a Winnipeg Jet.
“I enjoyed being a part of the community in Winnipeg. The city has its sports, its theatre and whatever every other city has, just on a different scale.” Hawerchuk said. “But there are also great beaches in the area. You have your Lake of the Woods, which is like the Muskokas north of Toronto, and you have your Gimli and Grand Beaches, which are like destinations in South Carolina. There is a lot to do.”
“I’m confident in saying that Dale was, in all respects, the greatest Jet that ever played in this city”— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) August 13, 2021
Jets ownership group planning Dale Hawerchuk statue close to downtown @NHLJets arena https://t.co/LIX8TmNcX5
To this day, when you go to a Jets game, you still see an abundance of Hawerchuk jerseys worn by fans. Many of whom would not have seen him play. If you ask anyone over 40 who their favourite Jets player is, a vast majority would say Dale Hawerchuk. For a decade, he was the Jets. He brought them to prominence and respect in the 80s, led the team on and off the ice, and was humble, to a fault.
Hawerchuk’s Greatness Brought the Jets Success
In nine years with the Jets, Hawerchuk amassed 929 regular season points on 379 goals and 550 assists, then added 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 38 playoff games. He never played a season for the Jets where he scored at a pace below a point per game. If it wasn’t for simple geography, he and the team would have enjoyed more playoff success.
As good as the Jets were in the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers were better. A team loaded with Hall of Famers, which happened to be in the same Smythe Division as the Jets, in an era where you played out of your division to advance towards the Stanley Cup.
In the 1984-85 season, three of the five best teams in the NHL were rivals in the Smythe Division. The Jets had the fourth-best record in the NHL with 96 points, while the Calgary Flames were fifth with 94. However, the Oilers amassed 109 points that year, second overall in the NHL, and on their way to their second of five Stanley Cups.
According to former Jets defenseman Randy Carlyle, Hawerchuk was the best player in the league except for one.
“We had some good players on our hockey club. You know? Dale Hawerchuk. If it wasn’t for Wayne Gretzky, I don’t know if there would have been a better player in the league for a number of years than Dale Hawerchuk.”
The Oilers defeated the Jets six consecutive times in the playoffs, but the 1990 playoff, Hawerchuk’s last as a Jet, will go down as a fan favourite, and most heartbreaking. The Jets had the eventual Stanley Cup winners on the ropes, down 3-1 in the series on Dave Ellett’s dramatic double-overtime goal in Game 4.
In Game 5, up 3-1 in the second period, the Jets had two breakaways in the same shift, both stopped by goaltender Bill Ranford. Within minutes, the Oilers scored two quick goals to tie the game before Jari Kurri scored the game-winner late in the third period. The Oilers went on to win the next two games and the series. From that point, the Oilers cruised to the Stanley Cup, losing only three more playoff games in total. What could have been for Hawerchuk and the Jets if it weren’t for bad geography and unfortunate timing?
Hawerchuk Will be Remembered Forever
Dale Hawerchuk is simply Mr. Winnipeg Jet. In a poll of NHL general managers during the mid-1980s asking them to select the player they would start a franchise with, Hawerchuk was voted third behind only Gretzky and Paul Coffey.
He embraced Winnipeg and made it home. He was proud of the city, and he carried the hopes and dreams of Jets fans for a decade. The Oilers have a statue of Gretzky, the Boston Bruins have a statue of Bobby Orr, therefore, it only makes sense that the Jets now erect a statue to honour Dale Hawerchuk. The greatest Winnipeg Jet.
Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.