WINNIPEG — Dale Hawerchuk’s legacy was enriched again Friday when the Winnipeg Jets announced the details of a statue of the Hockey Hall of Fame forward that will be unveiled in True North Square next August.
Erik Blome of Figurative Art Studio has been chosen to design the statue. Blome’s previous work includes the statue of Wayne Gretzky at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Chicago Blackhawks’ 75th anniversary commemorative sculpture at United Center, and the 14 statues that make up the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Legends Row outside of Scotiabank Arena.
Jets executive chairman and governor Mark Chipman also announced that an application has been made to the city of Winnipeg to designate as Dale Hawerchuk Way a two-block stretch of Graham Avenue that runs along the south side of Canada Life Centre.
“Dale, quite simply, is part of the fabric of this city and of the Winnipeg Jets organization,” Chipman said. “Beyond that, he has contributed so much to the sport of hockey. We are so proud to give Dale these much-deserved honors to showcase his extraordinary career and the remarkable person he was, and ensure his legacy lives well beyond the fans who followed his career and who were lucky enough to see him play.”
Friday was the 40th anniversary of Hawerchuk, who was selected by the Jets with the No. 1 pick in the 1981 NHL Draft, arriving in a Brinks truck to sign his first professional contract at Winnipeg’s iconic intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street.
During his remarkable career, he scored 1,409 points (518 goals, 891 assists) in 1,188 games over 16 seasons with the Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers, and 99 points (30 goals, 69 assists) in 97 Stanley Cup Playoff Games. He won the Calder Trophy, voted as the NHL’s top rookie, in 1981-82 after scoring 103 points (45 goals, 58 assists) in 80 games, and in 2001, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Hawerchuk died following a battle with stomach cancer on Aug. 18, 2020. He was 57.
Along with the statue and street application, the Jets also announced that the first Ducky Pond Hockey Classic presented by Canada Life will take place in January 2022, with proceeds going in support of Hawerchuk Strong, the charitable foundation begun by Hawerchuk prior to his death, and the True North Youth Foundation, the charitable arm of the Jets organization.
Hawerchuk’s oldest son, Eric, is helping spearhead the ongoing Hawerchuk Strong fundraising efforts and said his father would have been thrilled with the ideas announced Friday.
“The city of Winnipeg meant so much to my dad, so to see the city reciprocate that love toward him is really special,” Eric said. “It’s where I was born. My mom was born in Manitoba. Our whole family has a lot of connections there. And the one thing that’s great about the Jets is that they’re often considered a small-market team, but they do everything world-class.”
At the outdoor press conference on the statue’s future site in True North Square, Chipman said he had shared the statue plan with Hawerchuk a few days before he died. However, also naming a street and pond hockey tournament in his honor might have embarrassed Hawerchuk because of his humility, he said.
“It would have been very awkward for him and he would have been trying to change the subject and talk about his teammates and his mother and father and his family and how fortunate he was to play the game,” Chipman said. “That’s what he would have said. He would have been beet red and stick-handling around all of this attention.”
Scott Arniel played with Hawerchuk for two seasons with Cornwall of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before also being selected by the Jets in the 1981 draft (No. 22). Arniel brought to Winnipeg Hawerchuk’s nickname from juniors, “Ducky,” which he was given after a player thought he skated like a duck.
The two played together with the Jets for five seasons and remained long-time friends, and Arniel agreed with Chipman that Friday might have seemed a bit much to Hawerchuk.
“Dale used to say to me, ‘We came here to help this hockey team become relevant in the NHL,’ and he did that,” said Arniel, who is now an assistant with the Washington Capitals. “He was such a big part of putting the Jets on the map and he was so proud of it, so all of this is just a perfect topping to the story. He had great ambitions to win, to win the Stanley Cup and doing great things, but at the end of the day, he’d be overwhelmed by all of this.”
Arniel said he also discussed the statue plan with Hawerchuk after it had been revealed to him last year.
“He was so overwhelmed and so appreciative,” Arniel said. “It meant so much to him and we started talking about the statue. I said to him, ‘What do you think? Do you want to have one where you’re scoring a goal and have your arms up in the air, or maybe making one of your saucer passes over three sticks onto somebody’s tape so they could score a goal?’
“He said, ‘No, I was thinking I’d have it as me backchecking, but [Jets assistant general manager Craig Heisinger] already told me there was no chance they’re going to find any video or pictures of me backchecking.’ In Dale’s style, that brought a lot of humor to the situation. I know it’s going to be a great ceremony next year and it will be a special moment for him and the Hawerchuk family.”