NHL’s 1st pick in ’81, Hall of Famer

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD -

Dale Hawerchuk, a hockey phe­nom who be­came the face of the Win­nipeg Jets en route to the Hall of Fame, has died at the age of 57 after a bat­tle with can­cer.

The On­tario Hockey League’s Bar­rie Colts, a team Mr. Hawerchuk coached, con­firmed the death on Twit­ter on Tues­day.

“After an in­cred­i­bly brave and dif­fi­cult bat­tle with can­cer, our dad has passed away. My fam­ily is so proud of him and the way he fought. #Haw­er­chuk­Strong,” Eric Hawerchuk, one of Dale’s sons, wrote on Twit­ter.

A teenage star, Mr. Hawerchuk was drafted first over­all by the Jets in 1981. He went on to play nine sea­sons in Win­nipeg and five in Buf­falo be­fore fin­ish­ing up his dis­tin­guished 16-year NHL ca­reer with stints in St. Louis and Philadel­phia.

Mr. Hawerchuk had 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 reg­u­lar-sea­son games. He added 30 more goals and 99 as­sists in 97 play­off games.

“The Na­tional Hockey League mourns the pass­ing of Dale 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,” NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman said in a state­ment.

At 5-feet-11 and 190 pounds, Mr. Hawerchuk wasn’t blessed with size or blis­ter­ing speed. But the five-time All-Star had a knack of get­ting to loose pucks and then cre­at­ing some­thing out of noth­ing. Mr. Hawerchuk could breeze past op­po­nents and knew what to do when he neared the goal.

Mr. Hawerchuk had been bat­tling stom­ach can­cer. In Septem­ber 2019, he took a leave of ab­sence from coach­ing the Colts to un­dergo chemo­ther­apy treat­ment.

“For some rea­son the Lord put me in this kind of fight and I’m ready to fight it,” he told Canada’s TSN in Oc­to­ber 2019. “I want to live to tell the story.”

Eric Hawerchuk said in July on Twit­ter that the can­cer had re­turned after his dad com­pleted chemo­ther­apy in April.

Born April 4, 1963, in Toronto, Mr. Hawerchuk grew up in nearby Oshawa, get­ting his first pair of skates at age 2 and play­ing com­pet­i­tively at 4. He was the youngest player in NHL his­tory to reach 100 points, a record bro­ken by Sid­ney Crosby in 2006.

Dale Hawerchuk

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