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Dale Hawerchuk, Phenom in Hockey Hall of Fame, Dies at 57


Dale Hawerchuk, a hockey phenomenon who became the face of the Winnipeg Jets en route to the Hockey Hall of Fame, died on Tuesday. He was 57.

The death, from stomach cancer, was confirmed on Twitter by the Barrie Colts, the Ontario Hockey League team that Hawerchuk coached. The team did not say where he died. He took a leave of absence last September to undergo chemotherapy.

Hawerchuk was drafted by the Jets in 1981 at 18 and did not disappoint. He “put Winnipeg and the Jets on the map the day he arrived in our city in 1981,” the Jets said on its website.

In his first season, Hawerchuk scored 45 goals and became the youngest player in N.H.L. history at the time to reach 100 points, with 103. (The record was broken by Sidney Crosby in 2006.) He was also named rookie of the year, the youngest to be so honored. He led Winnipeg to a 48-point improvement that season, the largest single-season turnaround in N.H.L. history.

At 5-feet-11 and 190 pounds, Hawerchuk, who was known as Ducky, wasn’t blessed with size or blistering speed. But he had a knack for getting to loose pucks and then creating a play, breezing past opponents and knowing what to do when he neared the goal. Early on he drew comparisons to the Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.

“He has the same instincts, that puck sense, of Gretzky,” said Mike Doran, Winnipeg’s director of player personnel in 1981.

A five-time All-Star, Hawerchuk went on to play nine seasons in Winnipeg and five with the Buffalo Sabres before finishing up his 16-year National Hockey League career with the St. Louis Blues and the Philadelphia Flyers, which he helped reach the Stanley Cup final in the 1996-97 season, his last one. (The Detroit Red Wings won the cup in a four-game sweep.)

Slowed down by an ailing hip, Sawerchuk retired at 34. Over his career he had 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 regular-season games. He added 30 more goals and 99 assists in 97 playoff games.

He went on to become the longest-serving coach in the Barrie Colts history; at his death he was going into his 10th season in Barrie, about 65 miles north of Toronto. He had led the Colts to the playoffs six times.

Sawerchuk was the recipient of numerous awards and trophies. In a statement, the N.H.L. commissioner, Gary Bettman, called him “one of the most decorated players in our game’s history.”

Dale Hawerchuk was born on April 4, 1963, in Toronto to Ed and Eleanor Hawerchuk and grew up in nearby Oshawa, getting his first pair of skates at 2 and playing competitively at 4. As a peewee, he broke Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur’s record by scoring all eight goals in an 8-1 victory in the final of a tournament in Montreal.

His survivors include his wife, Crystal; two sons, Eric and Ben; and a daughter, Alexis.

Hawerchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2001.

“All the experiences have been fantastic,” he said in his induction speech. “Even though I didn’t win a Stanley Cup, I still wouldn’t change a thing. I think to ask for more would be greedy.”

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