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Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk dies at 57

Dale Hawerchuk with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996
Dale Hawerchuk with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996
(Nanine Hartzenbusch / Associated Press)

Dale Hawerchuk, who followed a distinguished Hockey Hall of Fame playing career by becoming a successful junior coach and executive, died Tuesday, his son Eric announced via social media. Hawerchuk, 57, had been fighting a recurrence of stomach cancer.

Hawerchuk, who was chosen first overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1981 entry draft, had a lot to live up to when he entered the NHL. The publicity-minded Jets staged a flashy ceremony for his contract signing Aug. 13, 1981, bringing him to the city’s main downtown intersection — the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street — in a Brink’s truck. But he lived up to his advance billing and was voted the NHL rookie of the year for the 1981-82 season after he scored 45 goals and 103 points.

Known for his instincts, passing skills and great vision on the ice, Hawerchuk stood less than 6 feet and was sometimes compared to Wayne Gretzky, another center who had a slight build. Hawerchuk scored 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 NHL games, and his average of 1.186 points per game ranks 14th in NHL history. He also played for Canada’s triumphant Canada Cup teams in 1987 and 1991.

“After an incredibly brave and difficult battle with cancer, our dad has passed away,” Eric Hawerchuk said via Twitter. “My family is so proud of him and the way he fought. #HawerchukStrong.”

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Hawerchuk, nicknamed “Ducky” and universally respected for his humble nature and solid worth ethic, spent nine seasons with Winnipeg and five with Buffalo before spending short stints with St. Louis and Philadelphia. He retired after the 1996-97 season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

Former Winnipeg and Ducks star Teemu Selanne, also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, offered condolences in response to Eric Hawerchuk’s tweet. “So sad,” Selanne said, inserting a weeping-faced emoji. “What an incredible human being. I’m thankful that Ducky was my friend and I had a chance to talked [sic] with him yesterday and say goodbye. This world is not the same place without him, Eric, you can be so proud of your dad. Thoughts love and prayers for all your family. RIP DALE.”

Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, who played for Hawerchuk while with the junior-level Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, tweeted a photo of himself and Hawerchuk taken on the day Svechnikov was chosen No. 2 in the 2018 draft. “Keeping Coach Hawerchuk’s family in my thoughts and prayers. You’re always in my heart,” Svechnikov said.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement that read in part, “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…. We send our condolences to his wife, Crystal; their three children, Ben, Eric and Alexis; and countless teammates and fans who were fortunate enough to see him play and call him a friend.”

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A moment of silence was held in his honor before Tuesday’s playoff game between the Flyers and Montreal Canadiens in Toronto.


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