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Hawerchuk won't rule out return to NHL

Ex-Jet rising star in junior coaching ranks

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As the rumour mill is known to do, it spit out the name of Dale Hawerchuk during the 2012-13 hockey season.

In particular, one bit of erroneous speculation during a rough patch of the season had the former Winnipeg Jets centre and present coach of the OHL's Barrie Colts taking over the bench of Winnipeg's struggling-on-the-ice franchise.

The fact that was made up doesn't mean Hawerchuk isn't open to future opportunity.

"It would probably be good if I had a bit more (coaching) mileage," Hawerchuk said Thursday. "I haven't thought about it that much. For me, it's not out of the question but the one thing I do know is that if I did it, the rest of your life is gone.

'I haven't thought about it that much. For me, it's not out of the question but the one thing I do know is that if I did it, the rest of your life is gone'

-- Dale Hawerchuk on possibility of coaching in the NHL

"At least in junior, you have some (life). But it would always be that way for me (in the NHL) because my dedication is that strong. It's such a 12-month-a-year job, I know if I signed up for it, it would be full bore. That's the only way you have a chance to be successful."

Hawerchuk has three years under his belt as head coach in Barrie. His rookie season was a monumental struggle -- other than helping Jets' 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele emerge -- but in the two ensuing seasons, his record is 84-43 and he's got four playoff series wins to his credit.

And while he's aware that some more experience might be helpful, Hawerchuk, now 50, is mindful of his home situation. Two of his children have left the nest but 15-year-old Ben is still at home.

"At this juncture, I think of the amount of time I missed with the other two while I was away playing," he said. "We'll see how things shake out the next few years but I do keep a close eye on both levels."

Hawerchuk was in Winnipeg this week for the fourth annual edition of the Dale Hawerchuk Charity Classic golf tournament at Pine Ridge.

Hawerchuk will return in a few weeks to play in the celebrity pro-am of the PGA Tour Canada's Players Cup, and will also caddy for his oldest son, Eric, in the tour event.

Among the luminaries holding golf clubs Thursday at Pine Ridge was Scheifele, who's a big fan of the thought that Hawerchuk has coaching upside.

"I think he got the absolute best out of every player on our team this year," said Scheifele, about a month after the Colts lost the OHL championship series. "Every guy became a better player."

Scheifele, whose Jets' opportunity will be wide open this fall, traveled to Hawerchuk's tournament to add some star power, and also to take a break from his new, intense off-season training regimen with former NHLer Gary Roberts.

"It's been going well," Scheifele said at Pine Ridge. "It's a good program. He's tough. He makes you work. It helps. I've already been seeing gains physically so it's a really good program."

Scheifele and 2012 first-round pick defenceman Jacob Trouba will be in full spotlight come September's Jets training camp, a development that has assistant coach Charlie Huddy enthused.

"There are a lot of good things going on with the team and I think we're going in the right direction," Huddy said at Thursday's tournament. "It's an exciting city to coach in, the way the building is, and that's never going to change. I think we've got something to build on.

"I know one thing, (Trouba) is a real good kid and he's excited about getting an opportunity to play. He's very coachable, obviously, and that's exciting. He wants to learn and wants to get better. That bodes well for his career."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2013 C4

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