Dale Hawerchuk statue among score of tributes planned for late Jets superstar
'Dale was, in all respects, the greatest Jet that ever played in this city'
Dale Hawerchuk immediately became an iconic Winnipeg Jet when he signed his first contract at the windy corner of Portage and Main in 1981 and exactly 40 years later his status has been cemented, almost literally.
True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the current iteration of the Jets (the original franchise was relocated to Phoenix in 1996), announced on Friday that it will unveil a statue of the NHL Hall of Famer, who was affectionately nicknamed Ducky.
"I'm confident in saying that Dale was, in all respects, the greatest Jet that ever played in this city," TNSE chairman Mark Chipman said. "He was our Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr, and there was just something so powerful about that."
The Toronto-born Hawerchuk was drafted first overall by the Jets as an 18-year-old rookie and by the end of his first NHL season, he was the youngest player in league history to reach 100 points — a record only broken in 2006 by Sidney Crosby.
He finished the year with 45 goals and 103 total points, won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year and was selected to the all-star game.
Hawerchuk played for 16 years and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017. He died two years later, at age 57, from stomach cancer.
Plans for the statue were in the works already at that time, said Chipman, who made sure Hawerchuk knew.
"I felt really blessed to tell him before he passed that his likeness would be cemented in the history of this city," said Chipman, who had to pause to fight back tears during Friday's announcement.
The statue will be erected in August 2022 at True North Square plaza, kitty-corner from the downtown arena where the Jets play their home games and where Hawerchuk's No. 10 banner hangs from the rafters.
The announcement took place in the plaza, where fans visited and left tributes to Hawerchuk at a memorial immediately after his death on Aug. 18, 2020.
The statue will be created by Erik Blome of Figurative Art Studio, whose work in hockey includes the Wayne Gretzky Statue at Staples Center in Los Angeles, as well as others in Chicago and Toronto.
It's not the only honour that Chipman announced for a man he called a great friend to the hockey club as well as a wonderful personal friend.
Appropriately enough for Hawerchuk, a hat-trick of tributes was announced.
TNSE has also applied to the city to designate a two-block stretch of Graham Avenue, which runs between the arena and plaza, as Dale Hawerchuk Way.
As well, an annual Ducky Pond Hockey Classic is being established, with the inaugural tournament set for Jan. 13-16 on a custom-made lake at Camp Manitou, just west of Winnipeg.
The winners will earn a berth in, and trip to, the Canadian tournament in Plaster Rock, N.B.
"Dale's family shared that they have many fond memories of playing pond hockey on Lake Winnipeg, and we know this is an event Dale would have cherished," Chipman said.
He also announced a new version of the Winnipeg Jets custom licence plate, featuring the team's heritage logo, will be available beginning Sept. 13.
A special raffle will be held to win the 0010 plate, giving one fan the opportunity drive around with Hawerchuk's number.
The Jets have adopted the 2019 Heritage Classic blue jersey as its official third jersey for the upcoming season, Chipman announced.
It will make its debut in the Nov. 9 game against St. Louis and will be worn a total of 14 times at home games.
"I don't believe, personally, that any one player is more synonymous with the Heritage logo than Dale Hawerchuk," Chipman said.