One of just 45 NHL players to score 500 goals, Hawerchuk currently ranks 20th in all-time points (518+891=1,409). His NHL points-per-game average of 1.186 (13th-best all-time among players with 500 points or more) ties him with Yevgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Most recently he has worked as a coach in Canada and internationally.
Right out of the gate, Hawerchuk shone, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy with 103 points in 1981/82. At 18 years and 354 days old, this Toronto native was the youngest NHLer ever to score 100 points. The record stood until Sidney Crosby topped it in 2006 at 18 years and 253 days old.
Starring on Winnipeg’s top line with Paul MacLean and Brian Mullen, Hawerchuk would rack up five consecutive seasons of 100 points or more between 1983-84 and 1987-88. The Jets captain was not only a skilled playmaker, but also tenacious in the defensive zone and a battler along the boards.
Hawerchuk’s style wasn’t always flashy, and his Jets had the misfortune of playing second fiddle to Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers in the old Smythe Division. However, a mid-1980s survey of NHL general managers revealed that the 180-cm, 84-kg forward was the third-most popular choice as a player to start a new franchise with, after Gretzky and Paul Coffey.
Jari Kurri, Gretzky’s long-time right wing, praised Hawerchuk at their Hockey Hall of Fame induction: “Dale, we always had to worry about him. He was the most dangerous guy on the ice. We knew that we had to pay attention to him every night. We just couldn’t give him the room with the skills he had and the way he sees the game.”
In his last two NHL seasons, which he split between the St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers, injuries caught up with him, including a bad hip. He came as close as he’d ever get to the Stanley Cup with the 1997 Flyers, led by Eric Lindros’s “Legion of Doom” line. After Philadelphia was swept in the final by the Detroit Red Wings, Hawerchuk retired from the NHL at age 34.
Hawerchuk’s international career began when the Cornwall Royals were chosen to represent Canada at the 1981 IIHF World Junior Championship in West Germany. The Royals were the last major junior club to receive that honour before Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence debuted in 1982. Hawerchuk led the team – which also included Doug Gilmour, Marc Crawford, and Scott Arniel – with nine points, but Canada finished seventh.
His IIHF peak came at the 1989 World Championship in Stockholm. Hawerchuk captained a squad featuring leaders like Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier, and Scott Stevens. He scored 12 points as Canada took the silver medal behind the Soviet Union. He also suited up for Canada’s bronze medal teams in Helsinki and Tampere (1982) and Moscow (1986).
Last May he talked about his situation and looked back at the 1987 Canada Cup in this TSN interview:
Unquestionably, Hawerchuk made a lasting impression on and off the ice during his 16 NHL seasons and beyond.
On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement: “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."
Bettman added: “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.”
Hawerchuk served as the head coach of the OHL’s Barrie Colts for the last nine seasons and was also an assistant coach with Canada's fourth-place team at the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. He leaves behind a rich legacy of hockey achievements and memories, particularly for fans of the Winnipeg Jets.