Dale Hawerchuk left an indelible mark on Manitoba. And now the province where his Hall of Fame pro hockey career began is paying tribute to the late, great "Ducky" in a variety of ways.
A series of tributes were unveiled Friday on the 40th anniversary of Hawerchuk rolling up to the corner of Portage and Main in a Brink's armoured truck to sign his first-ever NHL contract. It also comes five days before the one-year anniversary of his death from stomach cancer at the age of 57.
First up will be a statue of Hawerchuk erected at True North Square by next August. It was one of the promises Jets owner Mark Chipman made to Hawerchuk as they spoke in his final days.
"Dale was the greatest Jet that ever played in this city," an emotional Chipman said during an outdoor news conference at the site Friday.
"Over the years, Dale became a wonderful friend to our organization, and a wonderful friend to me personally. I felt especially blessed to have the privilege of telling him before he passed that his likeness would be cemented in the history of our city."
The sculptor commissioned for the project has done a number of sports-related ones, including the Wayne Gretzky statue that sits outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Chicago Blackhawks 75th anniversary commemorative sculpture outside the United Center and the Toronto Maple Leafs "Legends Row" which includes 14 life-sized pieces outside Scotiabank Arena.
Hawerchuk was drafted first-overall by the Jets in 1981, spending nine seasons here before moving on to Buffalo, St. Louis and Philadelphia to finish his career. His ties to Winnipeg remained strong, and he was the mentor and junior coach of Mark Scheifele, the first-ever draft pick of Jets 2.0 in 2011.
"It is so heartwarming to know that he will always be remembered, and his loyalty has come full circle, and we as a family, as a city and people far and wide are showing their love and loyalty to Dale so that his legacy will live on forever," said former Jets teammate Scott Arniel.
"He had a special relationship here. He grew into a hockey Hall of Fame player, but more than anything he grew into a Hall of Fame person, a Hall of Fame husband and father and friend to many."
In addition to the statue, Graham Avenue between Donald and Carlton streets, which runs between True North Square and Canada Life Centre, will be given an honorary renaming of "Dale Hawerchuk Way."
New Heritage-themed licence plates — which come out Sept. 13 — an annual pond-hockey tournament to be held every January at Camp Manitou and a move to the Heritage jerseys as the full-time third jersey instead of the old Aviator ones were also announced.
"They were immediately embraced by our team," Chipman said of the sweaters first worn at the Heritage Classic game in Regina in October 2019. "I remember vividly Blake (Wheeler) and Mark (Scheifele)'s reaction to them when we first showed them to them. And they've been embraced by our fans. So we're proud to honour the past with them. They're going to be seen far more often. They'll be worn 14 times at home games coming up this season."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.