Dale Hawerchuk calls Jets Hall of Fame induction a tribute to city that 'shaped my life'
'Anytime I … drove to that rink, the Winnipeg Arena, I was just smiling, grinning ear to ear'
Dale Hawerchuk never played the tough guy role during his NHL days and he's certainly not about to do it on Tuesday.
The former Winnipeg Jets superstar — who tallied nearly twice as many points as he did penalty minutes — will be inducted into the Jets Hall of Fame before the team's game against the Arizona Coyotes.
"I'm emotional. I guess you could say I'm a crier at times — the emotion and the passion of it all," said Hawerchuk, a Toronto-born kid who came of age in Manitoba, after he was drafted first overall by the Jets in 1981.
"Winnipeg and Manitoba really shaped my life. I went there at 18 and lived in the province for many years."
He fondly remembers the feeling of skating onto the NHL rinks during his rookie season, playing against guys he watched as a fan and, of course, scoring his first goal on Oct. 9, 1981.
It came less than a minute into the first period against the New York Rangers in the old Winnipeg Arena and helped lead the Jets to an 8-3 win.
"I was doing something that I'd dreamt about," said Hawerchuk, now 54, recalling how he and his friends played road hockey as kids and all dreamed of making the NHL — but he was the only one who did.
"Any time I got into the car and drove to that rink, the Winnipeg Arena, I was just smiling, grinning ear to ear," he said.
"It was such a good fit for me [being a Jet]. I was crazy about hockey and when I got to Winnipeg, I soon realized the whole province was crazy about the game and the Jets as well."
By the end of his first season, he had celebrated his 19th birthday and become the youngest NHL player in history to reach 100 points — a record only broken by Sidney Crosby in 2006. 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.
In his nine seasons in Winnipeg, he led the team in scoring every year and recorded 100 or more points in six seasons.
Hawerchuk by the numbers
- 18 — Age when he was drafted in 1981
- 5 — seasons as Jets captain
- 5 — times an NHL all-star
- 15 — NHL hat tricks
- 103 — points in rookie season
- 713 — games as a Jet
- 730 — NHL penalty minutes
- 929 — points as a Jet
- 1,188 — total NHL games played
- 1,409 — total NHL points
He bid Winnipeg goodbye in 1990, at age 27, part of a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
Hawerchuk retired in 1997 with 1,409 points (518 goals, 891 assists) in 1,188 career regular-season games and another 99 points (30 goals and 69 assists) in 97 career playoff tilts. He became the first player in NHL history to skate in 1,000 games before he turned 31.
Although he moved away from Winnipeg, Hawerchuk's roots remained deep in the Prairie soil. His wife, Crystal, is from the Arborg area of Manitoba and the couple maintained an off-season cabin in Manitoba's Interlake region for many years.
They still return often to visit her family.
"The vibe and the buzz is back in the city for sure. I really notice it when I go back now, especially from the years when they didn't have the team," Hawerchuk said about Winnipeg.
"It's exciting and well-deserved. It's a hockey market and they should have a team."
He will celebrate his induction on Tuesday with family, friends and some former teammates. The ceremony will take place before the Jets game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Although Hawerchuk was a Jet, he's actually an alumnus of the Coyotes franchise. The original Jets franchise relocated to Phoenix after the 1996 season.
Though he never played for the Coyotes, the team honoured its franchise star in 2007, when Hawerchuk was inducted into the Phoenix Coyotes Ring of Honor and his No. 10 jersey was retired.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 and was added to the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 2011.
He will be the fourth member of the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame, joining the HOT Line of Anders Hedberg, Bobby Hull and Ulf Nilsson, who were the inaugural inductees last season.
"I'm excited for the whole thing," he said about the banner that will be raised inside Bell MTS Place, but added it doesn't list everyone who's responsible for his success.
"It's my name going up but there's some many people behind it that helped me along the way. It's a tribute to the Jets and the whole province."
The Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame was created "to honour the impact and accomplishments of the team's hockey legends and to celebrate the rich history of professional hockey" in Winnipeg, states a news release from the team.
As Winnipeg honours Hawerchuk, another former Jet is being recognized for his hockey career. On Monday night, Teemu Selanne was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Selanne broke into the NHL and scored 76 goals in 1992-93 with the Jets. It remains the league record for most goals by a rookie and earned him the Calder trophy.
Selanne retired in 2016 as the highest-scoring Finn in NHL history,
He and Hawerchuk never played in the NHL together, but did suit up together in Jets colours as part of the outdoor Heritage Classic game in Winnipeg last year.
With files from CBC Manitoaba's Information Radio