Winnipeg Jets’ legend Dale Hawerchuk has passed away after a battle with cancer, his son Eric Hawerchuk announced on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. He was 57.
The NHL Hall of Famer was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October, 2019. Last month — three months after he completed chemotherapy and had his stomach and part of his colon removed — his cancer returned. A legend of the game, he will be missed by many.
Hawerchuk Owned the 80s and 90s
The man known fondly as “Ducky” has left a legacy on Winnipeg Jets and the NHL that will never die.
The Jets’ first and only first-overall pick quickly put the league on notice by recording 103 points as an 18-year-old rookie in 1981-82 and winning the Calder Trophy.
That season was just the beginning: the versatile, reliable, and intelligent Torontonian cemented himself as one of the NHL’s elite, eclipsing the 100-point mark in five more seasons and reaching the 50-goal plateau in 1984-85 by firing home 53.
Related: Winnipeg Jets with 100-Point Seasons
Hawerchuk registered 379 goals and 929 points with the Jets over nine seasons and became the face of the franchise before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a 1990 blockbuster trade and spending five seasons there.
He also suited up for the St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers before retiring at age 34 following the 1996–97 season due to a degenerative left hip. By the time his career wrapped up, he’d amassed 518 goals and 891 assists for 1409 points in just 1188 games and played in five All-Star Games.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
Hawerchuk Never Left Hockey Behind
Even though he retired at a fairly young age, Hawerchuk remained firmly in the game.
In 2010, he became the head coach of the OHL’s Barrie Colts, a position he held until he was forced to step down due to his health in 2019. The Colts finished above .500 in six of nine seasons with Hawerchuk at the helm, and advanced all the way to the OHL Final in 2012-13.
In the role, Hawerchuk oversaw and mentored many notable current NHLers, including Andreas Athanasiou, Aaron Ekblad, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Kevin Labanc, and of course, Jets’ star centre Mark Scheifele.
In fact, it was Hawerchuk who recommended to Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to go off the board and take Scheifele with his first-round pick in 2011 instead of consensus choice Sean Couturier, a draft decision that’s worked out marvellously for the team.
Hawerchuk’s Passion, Commitment, and Humility Inspired Many
Since news of his passing broke, tributes have been pouring in from around the hockey word.
“Dale Hawerchuk put Winnipeg and the Jets on the map the day he arrived in our city in 1981, and his love for our community and remarkable Hall of Fame career will keep it there for many generations to come,” the Winnipeg Jets said in a Tuesday-afternoon statement. “Dale had a relationship with our fans unlike any plater in the history of our franchise. Whether at home or on the world stage, “Ducky” was celebrated by so many, so often because of his humility and the grace by which he always carried himself. Dale was quite simply one of the finest human being we have ever know that also just happened to be a superstar.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also issued a statement, calling Hawerchuk “an instant and enduring star who captured the hearts of two hockey-loving cities, represented his country with class and distinction, and is one of the most decorated players in our game’s history.”
Decorated indeed, and never to be forgotten. As John Shannon wrote, “his imprint will be on the game for generations.”
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.