'He is home again': Dale Hawerchuk statue unveiled at Winnipeg's True North Square
Former Winnipeg Jet and Hockey Hall of Famer died in 2020 at the age of 57
A bronze statue commemorating Dale Hawerchuk, the former Winnipeg Jet and Hockey Hall of Famer who died in 2020 after a battle with cancer, was unveiled in front of a crowd of thousands on Saturday.
Hawerchuk, who died at the age of 57, played nine seasons with the Jets and five with the Buffalo Sabres, before ending his 16-year NHL career with stints in St. Louis and Philadelphia. He was the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points — a record later broken by Sidney Crosby in 2006.
"Now he is home again in Winnipeg," his wife, Crystal Hawerchuk told the crowd at True North Square, adding the family would always remember the fans.
The statue was made possible by True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the current iteration of the Jets (the original franchise relocated to Phoenix in 1996).
"It has been one of the great honours of my life to be a part of the process that led to the creation of the magnificent statue," True North CEO Mark Chipman said.
Hawerchuk was told about the statue project before his passing, his wife said.
"He was extremely humbled and honoured," Crystal Hawerchuk said. "It was an emotional day.
"He loved the people of Winnipeg. He loved the city, he loved the province. He even liked the winters and he loved the summers. He built a cottage on the lake and he told me he always felt Winnipeg was his home."
The unveiling ceremony included remarks from Mark Scheifele, who was coached by Hawerchuk in the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts and went on to be the Jets' first draft pick in 2011, and former teammates Kris King and Paul Coffey.
"He was the best coach I've ever had, but he was an even better human," Scheifele said of Hawerchuk.
"He was one of those guys that no matter who was around him — whether it was family, whether it was friends, whether it was players, whether it was staff — you could tell he just cared."
Hawerchuk battled stomach cancer and in 2019 took a leave of absence from coaching the Colts to undergo chemotherapy. He died in August 2020.
The Winnipeg Jets commissioned Erik Blome of Figurative Art Studio in California to sculpt the statue of Hawerchuk. Besides other sports figures, Blome's work includes sculptures of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and several 9/11 tributes that dot cities across North America.
"It is kind of a hard thing to do, making a bronze sculpture of someone — especially of someone deceased — because you're recreating them in a larger form," Blome told guest host Faith Fundal during a Thursday interview with CBC's Information Radio.
Blome and the Jets looked at pictures of Hawerchuk to find the right pose for the sculpture.
It took a year to sculpt the statue, and the process included interviews with Hawerchuk's friends and family, Biome said. He also did video research into how Hawerchuk held himself on the ice and hired a hockey player to model the statue's pose.
Saturday's unveiling took place at True North Square, on the corner of Graham Avenue — also known as Honorary Dale Hawerchuk Way — and Hargrave Street before the Winnipeg Jets' pre-season game against the Edmonton Oilers, which the home team went on to lose 3-2. Fans attending the game also received a commemorative coin of the beloved hockey player.
With files from Anne-Louise Michel and Faith Fundal