By Carter Brooks
Photo by Jonathan Kozub
The man responsible for helping mold the hockey player that Mark Scheifele is today is taking a leave of absence from coaching in the Ontario Hockey League for the 2019-20 season.
On Tuesday it was announced that Dale Hawerchuk has stepped away from his head coach position with the OHL's Barrie Colts - a role that the former Winnipeg Jet has served for nine seasons (2010-19).
“We are a tight and close family here and it is difficult to have to make announcements like this,” said Colts President Howie Campbell in a team-issued statement. “Dale is facing some health issues and will be taking the time he needs to deal with that situation. Our best wishes and thoughts are with Dale and his family during this difficult time… All of us want to see Dale back as soon as possible and we look forward to that day.”
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.
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. But recent news of 'serious health issues' has arisen from the Hawerchuk household, with Dale's son Ben, leaving Motor Ceske Budejovice - a Czech 2 league - to return home to North America to be closer to family.