As tributes continue to pour in from across the hockey world for iconic Winnipeg Jets captain Dale Hawerchuk, fans of the Hall of Famer now have a way to pay their own respects in downtown Winnipeg.
Hawerchuk’s No. 10 banner, which had been hanging from the rafters of Bell MTS Place, has been moved to True North Square so Winnipeggers can visit in person and remember the hockey legend, who died Tuesday of stomach cancer at 57.
Jets co-owner Mark Chipman had to choke back tears Tuesday afternoon during a call with media, as he described Hawerchuk’s legacy as the greatest Jet of all time.
“(Hawerchuk was) that humble kid who came in here and did all his talking with his game, and never lost that sense of humility — notwithstanding a Hall of Fame career,” said Chipman. “Right until the last couple of days, he just was Dale.
“He told me many, many times how proud he was to be a Manitoban — that he considered himself to be a Manitoban. It’s one thing to say that… It’s another thing to have actually been one.
“He lived here. This was his home for a long stretch, and long after he left, he stayed really connected, and I think that just really resonated with people here.”
In addition to the public display of the banner, Chipman announced details of another upcoming Hawerchuk tribute — one that was in the works before the NHLer’s death.
As part of the team’s ongoing efforts to recognize key players from Winnipeg’s pro hockey past, the Jets had planned a Hall of Fame statue of an iconic player — and Hawerchuk was the obvious choice.
Chipman said he and Jets executive Craig Heisinger had the chance to tell Hawerchuk about the plan before he died, and that “Ducky” was characteristically humbled by the honour.
“I’m really pleased that we were able to share that with Dale and that we’ll be able to memorialize his incredible career and the impact he had on this community in a significant way.”
Winnipeg-born NHL star Ted Irvine, known primarily for his time with the New York Rangers in the 1960s and ’70s, said although his career didn’t overlap with Hawerchuk’s, he could tell the Jets had something special just watching him play.
“It’s not stats — everybody knows them. I never played with the man, but I can relate as a 13-year player and playing with some of the greats. I often wonder with guys like Dale, what makes them so different?
“To be that kind of leader, at 18 years old, to have that kind of effect on the whole community, what’s different about guys like Dale?
“He had extra ingredients that not everybody has. Some of us make it to the NHL, but there’s only so many Dale Hawerchuks.”
Irvine said a defining moment for Hawerchuk was his performance in the 1987 Canada Cup tournament — assisting what may be one of the most iconic goals in Canadian hockey history, on a line with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
“Watch the replay. I’ve watched it a thousand times,” he said.
“Lemieux was not going into that faceoff. Gretzky was circling behind the net before the faceoff. Those two players said, ‘Dale, you take it.’
“But then watch the teamsmanship of what happened. Lemieux took off. Gretzky took off. It was Dale’s role to get that puck up the ice right away, and that’s what happened. Nobody sees it, because always it’s the goal scorer… but Dale was the guy who started the whole thing.”
In addition to Hawerchuk’s heroics as a Jet and with Team Canada internationally, he mentored hundreds of young players as the coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts for over a decade.
Colts owner Howie Campbell told 680 CJOB he met Hawerchuk through the old-timers’ hockey circuit years ago, and when he found out the retired NHL star was coaching kids, it led to a long partnership with the OHL team.
“I heard he was coaching a Junior A team in Orangeville that wasn’t too far from Barrie, and I just couldn’t comprehend how someone of his calibre was coaching in the league below us,” said Campbell, “realizing very quickly that he just loved coaching the kids, and it was close to home, and that team was under a little bit of duress, and he just wanted to help them.
“When one of my coaches left us a couple years later, I approached him and it was the perfect fit for both of us.”
While behind the bench in Barrie, Hawerchuk coached a number of future NHL players, including future Winnipeg Jets Bryan Little, Alexander Burmistrov, Brendan Lemieux and, most notably, the first-ever Jets 2.0 draft pick, Mark Scheifele.
“I think Mark and Dale kind of connected,” Campbell said. “Mark was a centreman, and who better to teach a young boy how to play the position and everything that he needed to learn, than Dale Hawerchuk?
“The Winnipeg Colts, we call you guys. It’s been a good process for us to send kids through, and it’s been a great experience.
“I would think it would be very safe to say that he took a lot of Winnipeg with him when he left us. He had a special place in his heart for the city.”
Hawerchuk had an impact off the ice as well. Ted Foreman, who met Hawerchuk four decades ago in Brandon, told 680 CJOB his friend remained loyal despite his growing fame and success.
Foreman said he began working with the star on his financial affairs from the time he was first drafted by the Jets, and that relationship continued throughout Hawerchuk’s career, even when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 1990.
“There was a Ted Foreman in Buffalo, too, I suppose, but he never left me.
“He went to St. Louis and Philadelphia, and I’m sure there were Ted Foremans in those cities, too, but he was just such a loyal, loyal person.”
Foreman said Hawerchuk remained Hawerchuk — no matter how high his star rose in the hockey world, and he made sure to stay involved in the community and be there for fans and friends who needed him.
“He never changed from the very first time I met him. He just was that way.
“He never turned anything down… He went to events, he went to hospitals. He did everything that a star professional athlete is not required to do, but usually those type of people always step up when things like that have to be done.”