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Jim Kyte Remembers Dale Hawerchuk

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Jim Kyte and Dale Hawerchuk were pretty much joined at the hip through the ’80s.

In 1981, the Winnipeg Jets selected Hawerchuk from the Cornwall Royals with the first overall pick. The following year, the Jets selected Kyte from the same Royals with the No. 12 pick.

The 6-foot-5 Kyte would watch Hawerchuk’s back in Winnipeg for the next six seasons. Kyte, who’s the first and only legally deaf player to make the NHL, would also watch Hawerchuk emerge as one of the finest players of the decade. “Ducky” won the 1982 Calder Trophy, was runner-up for the 1985 Hart Trophy, and was a key member of Team Canada’s 1987 Canada Cup-winning squad.

In 1989, Kyte was traded to Pittsburgh, making stops in Calgary, Ottawa, and finally, the San Jose Sharks, before being forced into retirement by a 1997 car accident. Kyte is now the Dean of Algonquin College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.

In 1990, Hawerchuk was sent to Buffalo, moving on to St. Louis and Philadelphia before hanging up his skates in 1997. Just four years later, Hawerchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. As recently as 2019, Hawerchuk was coaching the Barrie Colts, guiding youngsters like Aaron Ekland, Mark Scheifele, Kevin Labanc, and Andrei Svechnikov to NHL stardom.

Earlier today, however, the Hawerchuk family announced the passing of Dale Hawerchuk, 57, because of cancer.

Kyte was kind enough to join San Jose Hockey Now and reminisce about his friend.

On following Hawerchuk’s path from Cornwall to Winnipeg:

In 1981, the [Jets’] first pick overall was Dale Hawerchuk. Their first pick in the second round was Cornwall Royals teammate Scott Arniel. So when I got selected by Winnipeg in the first round the following year, GM John Ferguson walked up to the mic and said, “Winnipeg Jets select from their No. 1 farm team, the Cornwall Royals…Jim Kyte.”

On living with Hawerchuk and Arniel in his rookie year:

Dale and Scott were young guys, a year older than I was.

Serge Savard, the Hall of Fame defenseman…John Ferguson convinced Serge to come out of retirement. He played two seasons in Winnipeg. Serge had the house two doors over. He had us over for Christmas dinner. His family was there. There were cigars, cognac, and French wine. (laughs)

He was a father figure. He was very influential in Dale’s first years as a pro. He was a very calming influence on Dale.

On Hawerchuk’s obsession with Hall & Oates:

When I got called up around Christmas 1982, that’s when the Hall & Oates album H2O came out.

He played that album non-stop, the whole time while I was there. The whole time while I was there. (laughs) Whenever I hear “Maneater” or “One on One,” I think of Dale and Scott.

On the 1984-85 Winnipeg Jets:

It might be a bit subjective, but Winnipeg was the best team in the ’80s not to win a Stanley Cup.

But we couldn’t get out of the Smythe. We had Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg in one division.

The way the playoffs were set up then, you had to win the division first. So whoever came out of the Smythe Division went on to win the Stanley Cup. Except for Montreal in ’86, every Stanley Cup winner between ’84 to ’90 came from the Smythe.

In 1984-85, we had six players with over 30 goals, might still be an NHL record. We were fourth overall in the league. Edmonton was first, Calgary fifth. But Edmonton played LA, we got Calgary. The fourth and fifth-best teams overall had to play in the first round.

We ended up beating Calgary, but now we had the first and fourth-best teams playing the second round.

It should have been at least a semi-final if not a final.

Grant Fuhr had Winnipeg’s number. We could never solve the Grant Fuhr riddle. We outshot Edmonton in many games, but Grant Fuhr.

On playing in Winnipeg:

He played in a very small market in Winnipeg. If he had played in a larger market, he’d be revered. If he played his prime in Toronto or Montreal or a large American city…Back in the ’80s, we weren’t on TV every night either, like it is today. There’s no media exposure, no social media. We’d be on “Hockey Night in Canada” once in a blue moon.

I thought it was a travesty when they came out with the NHL100 list that Dale wasn’t in the NHL100. I think it was because he was in a smaller market.

The players knew how good Dale was. All-Star Games, played for Team Canada.

On what he learned from Hawerchuk:

He set the example for me when I turned pro.

The players today, they’re pretty removed for the public. You drive into the back of the arena, security is there.

If you’re a fan, you only see the players on the ice.

Today’s players, you either need to be very wealthy or very ill to meet them.

In Winnipeg, we had an older building at the time.

Back then, we had to park outside in the regular parking lot. We came in, we had to meet all the fans. And we had to meet all the fans on the way out.

Winnipeg is a very cold place in the winter. But we took our time. And Dale was our best player, he had just won the Calder Trophy.

He set the example for me for how to treat the fans. Without the fans, we don’t have a job. We’d be playing shinny somewhere.

We took as many photos as they wanted. We signed as many things as they wanted. We’d be out in restaurants — and not for me — but people would interrupt our meal and want to talk to Dale.

He couldn’t go anywhere in Winnipeg without being recognized. But he handled it.

On Hawerchuk’s passing:

Dale scored some amazing goals. But I remember him as being one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. He always took the time with the fans, he spoke to everybody. He was not dismissive of anyone. Down-to-earth, caring. A great teammate, a great captain.

I saw a photo taken with him and his family yesterday. He was happy. He was at peace with what was happening. He was surrounded by love.

I’ll always remember a vibrant and healthy Dale Hawerchuk who was just a wonderful human being.

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