Haw­er­chuk dou­bly in­ter­ested in Jets’ run

North Bay Nugget - - SPORTS - Donna Spencer

LAS VE­GAS — As a for­mer Win­nipeg jet who had a hand in a cur­rent Jet’s suc­cess, Dale Haw­er­chuk is dou­bly in­ter­ested in this year’s NHL West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

Haw­er­chuk, a Jets cen­tre from 1981 to 1990, coached cur­rent Jets cen­tre­man Mark Scheifele for three sea­sons when he played for the Bar­rie Colts from 2010 to 2013.

Haw­er­chuk played for Jets 1.0 be­fore that fran­chise moved to Ari­zona in 1996. Scheifele was the first player Jets 2.0 drafted in 2011 after the At­lanta Thrash­ers’ re­lo­ca­tion to Win­nipeg.

Scheifele’s shot, skat­ing, work ethic and lead­er­ship that helped Win­nipeg ad­vance to this year’s con­fer­ence fi­nal against the Ve­gas Golden Knights emerged dur­ing his Colt years, Haw­er­chuk said.

“Mark was one of those guys who was so de­ter­mined to do any­thing ex­tra on the ice or off the ice,” Haw­er­chuk said Wed­nes­day. “He would chal­lenge play­ers say­ing ‘if I don’t do this, or you don’t do this, we’re not mak­ing the show.’

“They’d be in there do­ing chin-ups on the chin-up bar and he would say ‘if you don’t do five more, you’re not mak­ing the show.’ ”

Scheifele’s quick re­lease on a lethal shot, which gen­er­ated a play­off-lead­ing dozen goals in 14 games, is a prod­uct of sum­mers spent in a makeshift back­yard shoot­ing gallery con­structed out of tarps hung on trees and plex­i­glass.

“He must have shot mil­lions of pucks all sum­mer long in his back yard,” Haw­er­chuk said.

Skat­ing was a ques­tion mark in Scheifele’s game as a teenager, so he put in ex­tra work on that, too.

Haw­er­chuk be­lieves Scheifele’s per­for­mance on the larger in­ter­na­tional ice sur­face at the 2011 world un­der-18 cham­pi­onships in Ger­many — where Haw­er­chuk was an as­sis­tant coach for Canada — an­swered ques­tions about his skat­ing.

The Jets made Scheifele the sev­enth over­all pick in the draft that year.

“A lot of peo­ple were con­cerned about his skat­ing,” Haw­er­chuk said.

“He just pushed the pace in prac­tice all the time and be­came a better skater. He did the work off the ice as well to build the legs.

“Re­ally, you could ar­gue he’s one of the fastest guys in the league now.”

Scheifele’s fi­nal sea­son as a Colt was piv­otal be­cause he fig­ured out how to be a dom­i­nant goalscorer in the face of pres­sure from op­pos­ing team’s top check­ers, Haw­er­chuk said.

Win­nipeg’s six-foot-three, 207pound cen­tre is do­ing that again in this NHL post-sea­son.

“It’s im­por­tant for guys to be able to do that in ju­nior if you want them to do that at the pro level,” Haw­er­chuk ex­plained.

“He gets chal­lenged after al­most ev­ery whis­tle or when he car­ries the puck. They’re look­ing to break him down. That comes with the ter­ri­tory. He got to un­der­stand that in ju­nior.”

Haw­er­chuk re­tired in 1997 after reach­ing the Stanley Cup fi­nal with the Phil­a­del­phia Fly­ers with a ca­reer 518 goals and 891 as­sists in 16 NHL sea­sons.

Scheifele, from Kitch­ener, Ont., felt lucky to have a Hockey Hall of Famer as his ma­jor ju­nior coach.

“He’s just a wealth of knowl­edge,” Scheifele said. “He went through so many ex­pe­ri­ences in his ca­reer and was able to pass on a lot of knowl­edge to me.

“Ev­ery day there was some learn­ing point I was taught by him, whether it was in prac­tice or whether it was do­ing video, whether it was dur­ing a game. He was a big men­tor of mine.”

While the two men played for two different Jets fran­chises, “when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way” as the West Side Story lyric goes.

So, Haw­er­chuk, 55, is pleased for both Scheifele and the city where Haw­er­chuk spent much of his NHL ca­reer.

“Any­body that’s played for the Jets in the past, they just hope for noth­ing but good things for the team, the fans out there,” Haw­er­chuk said.

“I don’t know too many guys that played out there that re­ally didn’t en­joy it be­cause it was such a tightknit group and the com­mu­nity is re­ally so sup­port­ive of the club.”

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