June 29, 2017 9:05 am
Updated: June 29, 2017 10:58 pm

Former Edmonton Oiler Dave Semenko dies at 59 from pancreatic cancer

WATCH ABOVE: Known as Gretzky's protector, former Edmonton Oiler Dave Semenko has passed away at 59. His death comes after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Kevin Karius takes a look at his career.

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Former NHL player, scout and coach Dave Semenko died Thursday morning in Edmonton after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

Semenko is considered one of the toughest players ever in the NHL and – as an enforcer – was considered Wayne Gretzky’s bodyguard early in Gretzky’s career in Edmonton.

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Wayne Gretzky issued a statement to Sportsnet about the passing of his former teammate.

“One of the first Oilers I met in 1978, I didn’t know at the time the impact he would have in my life and my career,” the statement reads. “He was the toughest player I knew and yet the biggest Teddy Bear you would ever know. A beloved Oiler that will be missed dearly because of his kind heart and funny sense of humour. He made us all better people. RIP # 27, thanks for your friendship.”

Semenko played with the Oilers for six seasons during the team’s glory years, from 1981 to 1987, and won two Stanley Cups with the team.

Former teammates Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey and Charlie Huddy shared their memories of the popular enforcer just hours after he passed.

Kevin Lowe said none of the “Oilers greats” whose names and numbers have been retired to the rafters of Rogers Place could have achieved their glory without the help of Semenko.

“The greatest of all time are up in the building, in Rogers,” Kevin Lowe said. “Those greats couldn’t have done it without the support and aid of Dave Semenko.”

Paul Coffey said his his first memory was from a training camp in Jasper in 1980, when Semenko convinced him to buy a round of beer for the entire team.

“You know, being there as a young kid, a shy kid, an early draft pick, really trying to fit in. We’re all sitting outside the restaurant in the bar area and Semenko says, ‘You want to make some friends?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’

“He says, ‘Why don’t your buy everybody a round?’ and I said ‘no problem.’ So the beer came and at the time was Olympia Beer, and it cost 50 bucks. I was a little bit devastated – that was a lot of money. Semenko, like only he can, just looked at me and says, ‘Yeah, but look at all the friends you made.’”

Charlie Huddy shared a story from after Semenko was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the two teams were playing each other.

“I remember going back to — Semenko was still on the ice — I remember going back for the puck and I knew he was coming. I was expecting a big hit and and then all of a sudden I heard him yell, ‘I’m coming, look out! I got the puck and I probably skated as fast as I could,” Huddy chuckled.

WATCH: Former NHL player, scout and coach Dave Semenko died Thursday morning in Edmonton after a short battle with cancer. Kevin Karius shares his memories of the fierce – and fiercely popular – enforcer.

“Dave will be remembered as a fierce competitor, loyal teammate, fan favourite and dear friend to so many,” said a statement from the Edmonton Oilers.

“His legendary toughness on the ice is surpassed only by his kindness and caring for others, and his equally legendary wit and sense of humour.”

 

He also played for the Hartford Whalers (who later became the Carolina Hurricanes) and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After retiring, he became a colour commentator on Oilers radio broadcasts and an assistant coach with the Oilers during the 1996-97 season.

“Our hearts go out to Dave’s family and many friends,” said the Oilers.

WATCH: Kevin Karius reports live from Rogers Place, where Thursday morning Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey and Charlie Huddy shared fond memories of their friend and former teammate Dave Semenko.

Semenko was 59 years old. He would have celebrated his 60th birthday on July 12. Kevin Lowe said a memorial service will be held next week. Details will be released in the coming days.

WATCH: While he’s fondly remembered by his teammates, the late Dave Semenko was also an Edmonton Oilers fan favourite. Kent Morrison has reaction from hockey fans young and old.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in males and females. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is eight per cent, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

WATCH BELOW: Speaking to Global News in April 2017 during the Oilers first cup run in over a decade, Dave Semenko said it’s tougher for him watching the playoff games than it was to play.

Watch below: Former Edmonton Oiler Dave Semenko passed away on Thursday following a short battle with cancer. He’ll be remembered for his quick wit and sense of humour among other things. Longtime Oilers equipment manager Barrie Stafford recounted a story exemplifying that from when Semenko spent a few weeks in the minor leagues.

Watch below: He was one of the most popular Edmonton Oilers of all time and on Thursday, Dave Semenko passed away following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. Charlie Huddy played with Semenko during the Oilers’ glory years. Kevin Karius spoke to Huddy about how his former teammate would be remembered.

 

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