Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk dies of cancer at 57

Dale Hawerchuk, who went from the No. 1 overall pick to a berth in the Hall of Fame, has died, his son announced Tuesday. He was 57.

Hawerchuk was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October. He completed chemotherapy in April, but his son, Eric, announced in late July that his dad's cancer had returned.

A dominant youth scorer who once scored eight goals in a game, had 81 goals in his final season of junior hockey and won two Memorial Cups, Dale Hawerchuk was taken first overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1981.

He became the youngest player to score 100 points in a season (103), helped lead the Jets to a 48-point improvement and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

"It was such a good fit for me (playing for the Jets),” he told CBC in 2017. “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."

After an incredibly brave and difficult battle with cancer, our dad has passed away. My family is so proud of him and the way he fought.

Hawerchuk was among the top centers in the 1980s as he topped 100 points six times and 90 points two other times in his first eight seasons.

That included a career-best 53-goal, 130-point season in 1983-84 in which he finished second in Hart Trophy voting behind Wayne Gretzky.

"Dale Hawerchuk put Winnipeg and the Jets on the map the day he arrived in our city in 1981, and his love for our community and remarkable Hall of Fame career will keep it here for many generations to come," the Jets said in a statement. "Dale had a relationship with our fans unlike any other player in the history of our franchise. Whether at home or on the world stage, 'Ducky' was embraced by so many, so often because of his humility and the grace by which he always carried himself. Dale was quite simply one of the finest human beings we have ever known that also just happened to be a superstar."

He also starred internationally, helping Canada win the Canada Cup in 1987 and 1991.

Hawerchuk missed the playoffs only once during his nine seasons with the Jets, but he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres at the 1990 draft in a four-player deal that also involved a swap of first-round picks. The return included future Hall of Famer Phil Housley.

Dale Hawerchuk went to the Buffalo Sabres in a major 1990 trade. (Photo: Nell Seiler, USA TODAY Sports)

He continued to put up points and playoff appearances on a high-powered team that included Alexander Mogilny and Pat LaFontaine.

Hawerchuk signed with the St. Louis Blues as a free agent in 1995.

"Time is running out for me," he told USA TODAY at the time. "This is my 15th year, and I've never had a really good shot at the Cup. That's why I came to St. Louis."

But his season there did not pan out. Coach Mike Keenan benched him in October for his return game to Buffalo, a game that Hawerchuk’s parents were attending. Brett Hull criticized the move and was stripped of his captaincy. Hawerchuk was traded later in the season to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he averaged more than a point a game and reached the second round.

Hawerchuk and the Flyers the following season advanced to the 1997 Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. During that summer, he was diagnosed with arthritis in his hip and announced his retirement.

He ranked 10th in all-time scoring at the time. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

"Even though I didn't win a Stanley Cup, I still wouldn't change a thing," he said of his career during his induction speech. "I think to ask for more would be greedy."

Hawerchuk coached the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League from 2010 until his cancer diagnosis. Among his players there were future NHLers Aaron Ekblad, Mark Scheifele, Andrei Svechnikov and Kevin Labanc, plus his son, Ben.

"Dale was an incredible man," Labanc tweeted. "He taught me so much and helped develop me to the person I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him." 

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