Winnipeg Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk has been diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Back in early September, the man responsible for helping mold the hockey player that Mark Scheifele is today took a leave of absence from coaching the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts for the 2019-20 season – a role that the former Winnipeg Jet has served for nine seasons (2010-19). This decision was announced as ‘health related’, which has since led to the recent announcement of his diagnosis back in August.
After undergoing tests throughout the summer, a tumour was discovered in Hawerchuk’s stomach, for which he has since been undergoing chemotherapy for. The hope is that the ongoing treatments will shrink the tumour down to a size that doctors can comfortably remove through operation.
“For some reason the Lord put me in this kind of fight and I’m ready to fight it,” Hawerchuk told TSN’s Rick Westhead in an interview. “I want to live to tell the story… Like anything in life, you just got to dig in and go for what your goals are. It’s kind of no different than trying to make the NHL. Who knew if I could make it, right?”
Hawerchuk, 56, spent nine seasons playing for the original Winnipeg Jets in the 1980s. The Toronto, ON. native served as captain from 1984-90, before moving on to play for the Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers during his illustrious 16-year NHL career. Averaging 42 goals and 103 points-per-season over his nine years with the Jets, Hawerchuk was rightly inducted into the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame on February 26, 2019.
“The chemo has hit me pretty hard,” he told TSN. “I do it one week and it breaks the body down and then the next week I take a break and build my body up so I can do it again. I have to do that for two months. I really struggle to eat and have a feeding tube, but the last few days I’ve been able to eat a little bit, too. You’ve got to keep your nutrition up.”
Hawerchuk put up 518 goals, 1,409 points and 740 penalty minutes in 1,188 regular season contests, before adding another 30 goals, 99 points and 67 penalty minutes in 97 postseason contests. A proud member of both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, Hawerchuk also earned two Canada Cup championships (1987, 1991) before turning his attention to coaching.
Since beginning his tenure as Colts’ head coach in 2010, the former first overall selection (Winnipeg Jets, 1981) has put together a 305-269-38 regular season record in the CHL – a 49.8 win percentage. With Barrie, Hawerchuk has helped shape current NHL stars Mark Scheifele, Brendan Lemieux, Aaron Ekblad, Tanner Pearson, Andreas Athanasiou, Rasmus Andersson, Andrei Svechnikov and Kevin Labanc amongst others.
In early April, Hawerchuk signed a four-year contract extension, keeping him in the fold in Barrie through the 2022-23 OHL season. In mid-July Hawerchuk participated in his annual Dale Hawerchuk Charity Golf Classic – a celebrity tournament in which proceeds raised go to the True North Youth Foundation. Dale’s son Ben, earlier left Motor Ceske Budejovice – a Czech 2 league – and returned home to North America to be closer to family in late August.
“You don’t have anything without your health, your family and your friends and sometimes we underrate that,” Hawerchuk added. “An illness like this can definitely put things in perspective. My surgeon told me I’ve got a hell of a battle on my hands, but I’m young and healthy everywhere else.”