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Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame: Dale Hawerchuk

Hawerchuk will be the fourth player inducted into the team's Hall of Fame on Nov. 14

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

It all started on June 10, 1981.

That year, the NHL Draft was held at the Montreal Forum, and the Winnipeg Jets held the first overall pick. Then general manager John Ferguson had made it clear whom the club was going to select.

Dale Hawerchuk's connection to the city of Winnipeg was about to begin.

The 18-year-old was introduced to the city two months later at the famed Portage and Main intersection, and was handed his number ten jersey. He signed his first contract on August 13, and from that point forward, he began crafting a Hall-of-Fame worthy career.

"I'll never forget coming out of the tunnel skating out for my first game at the old Winnipeg Arena playing the Toronto Maple Leafs," Hawerchuk said. "It just felt like my skates never touched the ice, I was just on a high the whole night.

"I was one of those kids that played road hockey and dreamed about playing in the NHL, and here it was happening in Winnipeg."

From 1981-1990, Hawerchuk made things happen night after night at Winnipeg Arena. His first season, his 45 goals and 103 points earned him the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 1982. He would top the 100-point mark in six of his nine seasons in Jets colours, but one of those seasons stood above them all.

Over the course of his 17 NHL seasons, Hawerchuk scored 40 or more goals six times. But in 1984-85, he notched a career-high 53. Not only was it the first time Hawerchuk had hit the 50-goal mark, he was also the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat.

"The way it happened, a shorthanded goal, the way they play happened, the way the goalie came out, those are moves you don't think about beforehand. I can tell you that," Hawerchuk laughed, referring to the spin move he pulled in front of the Chicago Blackhawks net before sliding a backhand just inside the post.

"I was sure happy to see it go in, and of course the ovation from the crowd is something you really appreciate."

The Winnipeg crowd was loud that night in late March. But it was after the regular season ended and the playoffs began, that the fans reached a whole other level. Especially when the famous Winnipeg White Out made its debut in 1985.

"It really surprised the players the very first time," Hawerchuk said. "It was so loud, it was so bright in the arena, that when we came out for the start of the game, it was like 'Wow. This is like a whole new building.' It took the players by storm, and seemed to take the league by storm."

Hawerchuk represented Canada six times in his career, but perhaps none stick out more than the 1987 Canada Cup, when won the face-off that led to one of the greatest Canadian hockey moments:

Mario Lemieux's goal in the third and deciding game of the tournament final, leading Canada to a 6-5 win over the Soviet Union.

"I remember (coach Mike Keenan) tapping me on the shoulder. Mark Messier was tired at the end of a shift, and he says go take the draw," Hawerchuk said. "You're in the last minute, you've got the whole country on your shoulders it seems like, and you've got Mario on one side, and (Wayne Gretzky) on the other. It's like 'alright this is a pretty good situation to be in, so let's win this draw and get going.' It couldn't have worked out any better.

"I can tell you, winning that series in 1987, there was not much gas left in the tank of anybody."

Hawerchuk was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001, following a career that finished with 518 goals and 1,409 points, with 929 of those points coming as a member of the Jets.

Now, the man who wore the captain's 'C' for five seasons in Winnipeg, will see his name raised to the rafters at Bell MTS Place, honouring a career that he says was all about finding his niche.

"I never played a game to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I played the game to win. The one thing I understood, was it was a team game," said Hawerchuk. "Everybody has their strengths and their shortcomings, but you had to find what your niche needed to be for that team.

"I'm so proud to be a Winnipeg Jet. The fans have been so inspirational. We all feel it's a special place in our heart. We're proving it again. I want to be here when the Stanley Cup comes here. I want to be a part of it."

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To see the pre-game ceremony live, and watch the Winnipeg Jets take on the Arizona Coyotes, head to WinnipegJets.com/tickets.

To attend the Hall of Fame Luncheon on Nov. 15, 2017, click here.

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