Around the earlier couple of times, Mike Keenan composed a text message to Dale Hawerchuk with probably his most poignant piece of coaching above their 42-year romance.
“You’ve bought one particular more faceoff to win,” Keenan wrote of Hawerchuk’s fight with most cancers.
It was Keenan’s way of displaying his assistance for a person of the most resilient and competitive gamers he has ever crossed paths with – a path that features their shared purpose in 1 of the most unforgettable faceoffs in hockey heritage.
In the waning times of Recreation 3 in the 1987 Canada Cup last in between Canada and the Soviet Union, two of the finest centres ever to enjoy the game in Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux deferred to Hawerchuk on the attract.
It is the minute that developed the odd-guy hurry in between Nos. 66 and 99 that is without end etched on the minds of supporters throughout Canada.
Hawerchuk’s legacy will be similarly prolonged-lasting, just judging by the messages that flowed to his telephone from close to the hockey planet in current days and weeks.
One of the game’s good superstars in the glory days of the 1980s, Hawerchuk handed away at the age of 57 on Tuesday after a year-extensive battle with tummy most cancers, his loved ones declared.
The deal with of the unique Winnipeg Jets franchise – and one particular of Canada’s finest junior hockey gamers at any time – was inducted into the Hockey Corridor of Fame in 2001.
Keenan, commencing his coaching journey with the Oshawa Legionaries of the Toronto Metro Jr. B league, initial coached the child they called Ducky as a 15-year-old in 1978-79. What stood out then, even for a player deemed to be a childhood prodigy who broke Dude Lafleur’s intention-scoring report in the Quebec International Pee Wee event, turned out to be the hallmark of Hawerchuk’s NHL profession.
“He was so resilient,” Keenan reported. “He was the best player on our team as a 15-12 months-aged. He thrived on the competition as a younger man, and when we obtained into some hefty playoff battles, the other teams would really go right after him. He did not back down. He bounced appropriate back again up. You could notify then that he experienced what it normally takes to be a celebrity in the NHL.”
The complete country observed it more than the next two a long time, playing for the Cornwall Royals in the Quebec Main Junior Hockey League.
Around a two-12 months operate, Hawerchuk collected 286 details in 144 common-season game titles, two Memorial Cups, CHL Player of the Yr, Memorial Cup MVP and QMJHL playoff MVP.
In 1981, Hawerchuk and the Royals faced Keenan’s Peterborough Petes, the defending Memorial Cup champions. The Petes allegedly threw the ultimate recreation of their spherical-robin in purchase to guarantee a matchup with Hawerchuk and Cornwall in the final, a perceived weaker opponent. Cornwall upended Peterborough in extra time in the remaining.
Keenan constantly denied the narrative, but he and Hawerchuk normally appreciated playful banter whenever it arrived up.
“I would convey to him we outplayed them in the last,” Keenan claimed. “And he would say, ‘Maybe, but we have bought the Cup,’ and I couldn’t definitely argue with that.”
The Jets drafted the can’t-overlook Toronto native initially over-all in 1981. Hawerchuk infamously inked his agreement at the corner of Portage and Key in downtown Winnipeg just after GM John Ferguson experienced him sent in a Brinks truck, marking a rebirth of the franchise in the NHL.
Twenty-a person picks afterwards, the Jets drafted Hawerchuk’s Cornwall teammate and lifelong good friend Scott Arniel with the initially variety of the second spherical. Arniel finished up staying Hawerchuk’s teammate for 7 straight seasons – one in Cornwall and 6 with the Jets.
“He was Winnipeg’s big news. There was large buzz and he was a large-time participant,” stated Arniel, now an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals. “He acquired it all. He didn’t just have talent, Dale experienced this good drive and ambition, some thing that I never know if I have noticed. He’s a single of those people people today that the expectation of himself was so substantially larger than what everyone could place on him.”
Hawerchuk exceeded people lofty expectations. Hawerchuk posted 100 or extra details in 6 of his to start with seven seasons in the NHL, together with 5 straight from 1983-88.
The Jets mentioned in a assertion on Tuesday that “Dale Hawerchuk put Winnipeg and the Jets on the map the day he arrived in our town in 1981.”
From his debut in 1981 until eventually 1993-94, Hawerchuk was 2nd league-huge in points (1,298) only to Gretzky (2,157), topping Lemieux (1,211), Paul Coffey (1,246) and Mark Messier (1,220). Hawerchuk was the Jets’ captain for six seasons, then wore the ‘A’ in Buffalo for the adhering to 5.
“He just hated to drop,” Arniel explained. “It did not matter if it was golf, baseball or hockey – he was incredibly competitive.”
Hawerchuk is commonly thought of one of the finest players at any time to not gain a Stanley Cup. The closest he acquired – the only time his group ever innovative past the second spherical – was the 1997 Stanley Cup Closing with the Philadelphia Flyers, the final game titles he performed in advance of retiring at the age of 34 thanks to a degenerative hip issue.
His Jets just by no means had plenty of to sneak earlier the Smythe Division stalwarts in Edmonton and Calgary.
On the global phase, Hawerchuk wrote a unique story. Tasked with coaching Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup, Keenan acquired his lesson from betting towards Hawerchuk in the 1980 Memorial Cup.
Hawerchuk was a borderline roster player on that ‘87 squad with 10 other potential Hockey Corridor of Famers, but caught Keenan’s eye with his do the job ethic in education camp.
“He instructed me: ‘We didn’t have you pencilled in, but the way you are participating in, there is no way we can retain you out of the lineup,’” Hawerchuk recalled in a modern job interview with TSN.
He finished up being one of the genuine difference-makers for Canada. Not only did Hawerchuk win the draw to setup the sport-successful purpose, but he ran interference in the neutral zone so Lemieux and Gretzky could sail towards the Soviet purpose. He was also part of Canada’s 1991 Canada Cup victory.
“It was a privilege coaching him once again,” Keenan explained. “He was a really humble competitor, quite coachable, and that is what allowed that crew to appear collectively – for the reason that of the qualities of men and women like Dale. These guys all arrived from different teams where they ended up superstars, and he performed a ton a lot less than he would have in Winnipeg, but was so humble about it.”
Hawerchuk’s humility carried around to his article-enjoying profession, coaching in the junior ranks. He was named head coach of the OHL’s Barrie Colts in 2010, the place he posted five 40-plus earn strategies around nine seasons. Hawerchuk served create foreseeable future NHL stars these types of as Mark Scheifele and Andrei Svechnikov in Barrie.
But Hawerchuk called the opportunity to coach his son, Ben, in the OHL one of his best honours in hockey.
Hawerchuk was compelled to consider a depart of absence from coaching very last yr following his cancer prognosis. He advised Arniel in a subsequent cellphone call: “I’m beating it. This issue isn’t heading to get me.”
That appeared to be the circumstance when Hawerchuk triumphantly rung the Bell of Hope at a Barrie healthcare facility on April 13 at the summary of his therapy.
It was then, in the center of a pandemic, that a brave participant who gave the hockey environment so numerous indelible times stated that these seeking times had been a moment of opportunity for everybody to respect the little points.
“When you wake up, it’s refreshing,” Hawerchuk explained to the Winnipeg Sunlight. “I positive recognize when I see that sun pop about the increase each and every morning. You get started to notice that everything we’ve had was this sort of a privilege. We consider that privilege for granted much too often. The cancer’s served me recognize that a bit. But this coronavirus is also going to support, not only me, but everyone. We just cannot take so several things for granted any longer.”
Hawerchuk is survived by his spouse, Crystal, and small children Eric, Ben and Alexis. Funeral arrangements ended up pending.
Call Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli