The Hall of Fame centre wore Winnipeg colours from ’81 through the 1989-90 season, and although he played his last game as a Jet 30 years ago, Hawerchuk has been on Manitobans’ minds in recent months due to his battle with stomach cancer.
On April 13, Hawerchuk finished his final round of chemotherapy in a Barrie, Ont., hospital, and he told 680 CJOB it feels good to be on the other side of something he didn’t know he would survive.
“It’s kind of nice that from my first diagnosis at the end of August, that this was the original plan and I’ve arrived at the end of it,” he said.
“It seemed like a long way off at the time, but here I am now, and I’m feeling pretty good.”
Getting to this point, however, hasn’t been easy. Hawerchuk had surgery to remove part of his colon and his entire stomach, and there were a number of points, he said, where he felt like he was on his deathbed.
“At first, it really feels like a death sentence, and then you realize that this thing is beatable — a lot of people have beat cancer.
“My prognosis was not good. My surgeon was pretty blunt right at the start.”
Part of what helped him get through the rough days — and there were a lot of rough days — was the outpouring of support from the hockey community, including many old friends and fans from his first NHL home.
“It’s been incredible. The whole time, so many people have reached out through the hockey world… a lot of Manitobans, especially to hear people you haven’t heard from in years,” he said.
“I lived in Manitoba so long and I’ve been to almost every part of it, so I’ve met a lot of people along the way and that’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with the province — the people really seem to make that province go.
Although he went right from one kind of medical drama to another — the COVID-19 pandemic — Hawerchuk said he’s optimistic about humanity’s ability to move past the current crisis, hopefully for the better.
“We’re all in this quarantine right now with COVID-19, but I’ve been in quarantine for eight months, so that part’s doable as well. I’m still going.
“Things really changed here. Mankind’s always found a way, and I think we’ll find a way,” he said.
“This one just may take a little bit longer.”
“I just hope that if we get a vaccine or we get a miracle cure that mankind doesn’t go back to the way it was. Changes have to be made.”