Hawerchuks continuing influence seen through foundations donations

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Hawerchuk Strong, launched a few weeks before Hawerchuk died Aug. 18, 2020, at 57 years old, has made a $35,000 donation to the Winnipeg Jets’ True North Youth Foundation.

“I hear my dad in my ear,” said Hawerchuk’s son, Eric, co-founder of Hawerchuk Strong. “There have been a few times of, ‘Get off your butt. You can sit here and cry about it but nobody’s going to do things for you so you’ve got to do it yourself.’

 “That’s who he was and he wanted to keep things going. And just because we’re not able to go out, there are a lot of kids in need … and there are a lot of people that are really struggling beyond the pandemic and we’ve got to do our best to try to support them. We want to make sure they know somebody is there to think of them. That keeps us going.”

During his life, Dale Hawerchuk’s charitable work and focus on giving back was centered on helping children.

Eric Hawerchuk and Hawerchuk Strong co-founder Andrew Jackson have remained true to that intent with their ongoing fundraising efforts. They plan to organize more in-person events once pandemic restrictions are reduced, but through the Hawerchuk Strong website, they already can count as successes their donation to True North Youth Foundation and a similar $35,000 contribution to Easter Seals Ontario, plus 28 $1,000 donations to a variety of groups and families.

Twelve of those have been in the Barrie, Ontario, region, where Dale Hawerchuk was coach of Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League for nine seasons until he stepped away from the job in August 2019, after his cancer diagnosis, and the other 16 were in Manitoba.

“I always have Dale in my ear saying, ‘Hey Jacks, let’s give them $1,000,'” Jackson said. “And that’s what we’ve been doing over and over again, most that people don’t know about. We’ve given big donations to Easter Seals and the True North Youth Foundation, but there have been so many checks to others for wheelchairs or schooling or what have you. We want to continue to keep the Hawerchuk Strong message there.”

Jackson said Hawerchuk Strong intends to continue hosting fundraising golf tournaments in Ontario and Manitoba with the support of Scotia Mortgage and its president and CEO, John Webster, events that Dale Hawerchuk had been overseeing for more than 10 years in each place.

“One of Dale’s asks was that we continue to run those events and we certainly plan to run both golf tournaments when safe to do so,” Jackson said. “And we have a lot of other ideas.”

The synergy with True North Youth Foundation likely will continue, Jets executive chairman Mark Chipman said.

“In a year where the work of our foundation has been significantly impaired, we were especially humbled by the news of this very generous gift,” Chipman said. “As well, we have begun to explore the possibility of partnering with Eric and Hawerchuk Strong in some very exciting projects, beginning as early as this upcoming season.”

Chipman already has said the Jets intend to erect a statue to commemorate Hawerchuk’s life and career in True North Square in downtown Winnipeg, a block from Bell MTS Place. More details of that project are expected on or before the 40th anniversary of Hawerchuk signing his first NHL contract with the Jets, on Aug. 13, 1981.

Hawerchuk was the No. 1 pick of the 1981 NHL Draft and played the first nine of his 16 NHL seasons in Winnipeg.

He scored 1,409 points (518 goals, 891 assists) in 1,188 regular-season games with the Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers, and 99 points (30 goals, 69 assists) in 97 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He scored 103 points (45 goals, 58 assists) in 80 games in 1981-82 and won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.

Eric Hawerchuk and Jackson also said this week that former Jets captain Kris King has offered to take on a bigger role with Hawerchuk Strong.

“It’s a beautiful tie-in, that my dad and Kris were really good friends, both former Jets and former captains,” Eric said. “He’s always been supporting Hawerchuk golf tournaments and he’s a close family friend. To have his support means a lot to us.”

King, an NHL senior vice president of hockey operations, played for the Jets from 1992-93 to 1995-96.

He and Hawerchuk never were teammates during their NHL careers but became close friends after each had retired, Hawerchuk in 1997 and King in 2001.

“Having the ability and privilege of being part of his fundraising events, when you become part of Dale’s events you don’t just show up and be a name he introduces,” King said. “He wanted you to realize as soon as you got there how important it was to him and his family that you would take the time to be part of something he was doing.

“When I went to Winnipeg and became captain (1995-96), it was an ultimate privilege for me in my career, especially in a great city like Winnipeg, and Dale set that table for all of us. I was brought up to give more than receive and Dale started something so important and needed in Winnipeg. Anything I can do to help, well, I certainly don’t have the name that Dale Hawerchuk had in Winnipeg, but if I can do a little bit to make sure it’s not forgotten, then that’s a reason to do it.”

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