Dale Hawerchuk's fight against stomach cancer has sparked the launch of HawerchukStrong.com, a website with the goal to inspire, raise awareness and raise money for the continuing fight against the disease.
HawerchukStrong.com went live on Thursday, telling the story of the former Winnipeg Jets captain and Hockey Hall of Famer who was diagnosed in August 2019. The site also offers a portal for donations and to purchase specially designed Hawerchuk Strong merchandise, all in support of the fight against cancer.
"We're overwhelmed with how people are so supportive and all we want to do is something we can be proud of and Dale can be proud of, with a goal that we continue to raise awareness and raise money," said Andrew Jackson, Hawerchuk's friend who is behind the website.
The idea for the Hawerchuk Strong site was hatched by Hawerchuk and Jackson, founder and CEO of Jackson Events, last November. Hawerchuk and Jackson Events have been holding the Dale Hawerchuk Celebrity Golf Classic near his Ontario home and also in his former home, Winnipeg, since 2002. The event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for causes like Headwaters Health Care Centres, Easter Seals, Manitoba Kidney Foundation, the True North Youth Foundation and other causes important to Hawerchuk.
Late last year, Hawerchuk was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments and the plan was to launch the awareness and fundraising website this spring during playoff runs for the Jets and Barrie Colts, the Ontario Hockey League team Hawerchuk coached from 2010 until he stepped away last summer.
"But then the COVID pandemic hit, there was no hockey, the June golf tournament was put off until September and then Dale's cancer returned," Jackson said Friday.
Hawerchuk's treatments last year and earlier this year included surgery to remove his stomach and he completed those cancer treatments in April but Hawerchuk's son, Eric, tweeted this past Sunday that his father's cancer was back.
"My dad is back in his fight against cancer due to a resurgence of this terrible disease. We are praying for him and he will continue to fight hard. ️#HawerchukStrong," the tweet said.
Nevertheless, Hawerchuk recently urged his family and Jackson to keep going with the initiative, Jackson said, and intense work began to move the launch up to this week.
"I tweeted out the 'Hawerchuk Strong' logo and it took off earlier this week," Jackson said. "Dale's a quiet guy but he can be emotional and he's certainly proud of what we've done raising money and awareness over the years. He wants this to go ahead, believes it's an important thing to continue to do.
"That's just him -- all he cares about is somebody else."
The Hawerchuk Strong logo was quickly adopted by the Jets and Tanner Pearson of the Vancouver Canucks, who wore the decal on their helmets during the NHL exhibition game at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday. Pearson played for Hawerchuk in Barrie (2010-12).
Jackson said advancing the Hawerchuk Strong website launch to this week was possible because they had already assembled some of the shirts and merchandise in anticipation of doing it at the annual golf tournament this fall.
The initiative's major partners have also been instrumental, he said, including John Webster and Scotiabank, Canada Guaranty, FNF Canada, Jets governor Mark Chipman and the True North Youth Foundation, each of whom have been backing previous golf tournament efforts.
Hawerchuk, the No. 1 pick by the Jets in the 1981 NHL Draft scored 1,409 points (518 goals, 891 assists) in 1,188 career games for with the Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers during 16 seasons (1981-1997). He had 99 points (30 goals, 69 assists) in 97 Stanley Cup Playoff games and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
Photos courtesy: HawerchukStrong.com