“A Strange-Sad Summer Day”
I sat and watched the game last night.
Not Major League baseball in the middle of this 60-game shortened season.
Not the opening round of the NBA playoffs.
It was a weird evening in San Diego.
Here it was mid August.
Here is was 104-degrees in my driveway in Rancho Bernardo.
Here was I, watching the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in August.
It was indeed a strange sensation. I love playoff hockey.
And there at center ice, right before the Calgary-Dallas playoff game, the lights went down. Players stood along the blueline. They stood at the bench. The coaches stood in the corner of each bench area.
A quiet arena without fans, became even quieter.
And there were tears in their eyes.
Hockey was about to play the National Anthem and then O-Canada.
But first they were going to honor one of their fallen.
Hockey is mourning the passing of a truly special human being, a special player, a special coach, a Hall of Famer.
Dale Hawerchuk passed away on Tuesday after a bitter multi-year battle with stomach cancer. Taken off the ice, away from the game at age (57).
He leaves behind a wife and kids. He leaves behind Hall of Fame memories. He leaves behind 518-career goals . He leaves behind friends everywhere, from fans, to the media, to teammates, to opponents.
An NHL superstar in the smallest of markets, Winnipeg and Buffalo. An icon in both locations, and a head coach there too. An 18-year old sensation who never played a minute of minor league hockey as the first pick in the overall draft.
A teacher, a comrade, a leader, a friend, and a confidante.
His Hall of Fame of speech years ago was moving. Not about himself. Not about his accomplishments, or even his teams.
But instead it was about the legacy of the sport and the people in the sport, and what the sport means to every little hockey community, from the rock that is St. John’s Newfoundland to far off places like White Rock, British Columbia. Not so much in places like Toronto or Montreal or Edmonton, but places like the Gaspe Peninsula-Quebec or in Whitehorse-Yukon Territory.
Everything about the sport was important to Dale Hawerchuk. He gave messages of respect to the game, right vs wrong. The dedication it takes to become a complete player. The meaning of the room, the crest on the sweater, and loyalty to the team.
His life and career was about serving, and scoring goals, and guiding others.
I met him thru Teemu Selanne while covering the Ducks. They were teammates in Winnipeg with the Jets back in the day.
All you need to know were the tears in the eyes of the players and coaches on the ice during the moment of silence before that playoff game last night. Grown men, about to go to hockey war, their heads cast down in a moment of silence-respect.
He was a fine player, and a better person, who squeezed everything he could out of his career talents, and every minute he could after this long courageous fight against stomach cancer.
it was a strange day, 104-degrees outside, watching hockey on ice inside, and remembering sadly a truly nice person, who left the game and players a better place, because he was part of the sport.