Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dale Hawerchuk Autographed Card

When Dale Hawerchuk took a leave of absence from coaching the OHL's Barrie Colts, they only said it was for "health reasons". But by leaving the door upon for a return, I thought it was something that impedes your day-to-day, but not this: it has now come out that he is undergoing treatment for stomach cancer.

Although his prime extended to 1994, I would say he's one of the ten best forwards of the 1980s; I'll go even as far as saying he ranks #4 in my book:

1. Wayne Gretzky
2. Mario Lemieux
3. Peter Stastny
4. Dale Hawerchuk
5. Mike Bossy
6. Denis Savard
7. Jari Kurri
8. Steve Yzerman
9. Mark Messier
10. Marcel Dionne

You have the best player of all time at #1, and the most talented of all time at #2. That they played in the same generation boggles the mind. Then you have Stastny, the decade's second-highest scoring NHLer despite playing on a team that was never a powerhouse - and the most complete player of his era, offensively and defensively, the Patrice Bergeron of his time, essentially, but better.

Bossy's one of the three best and purest shooters of all time - with Brett Hull and Alex Ovechkin. Savard was the most electrifying and spectacular player of the era. Jari Kurri was on the level of a Marian Hossa or Mark Stone if those guys had Steven Stamkos' shot.

Yzerman was elite, just below the level of a Joe Sakic - a top-10 of his era whether I like it or not. I was also looking for ways to leave Messier out of this list, but I couldn't. And Dionne - possibly the best player to never win a Stanley Cup - was elite in the 1970s and into the first half of the 80s as well, so he makes the cut too.

That means the likes of Michel Goulet, Bryan Trottier, Mike Gartner, Dino Ciccarelli, Bobby Smith, Ron Francis, Rick Vaive, Mats Naslund, Neal Broten, Joe Mullen, Brian Bellows, Charlie Simmer, Bernie Federko, and Pat Lafontaine didn't make the cut, and the same can be said of players who came into the decade late, like Luc Robitaille, Theo Fleury, Sakic, Hull (his impact came into the 1990s), and Joe Nieuwendyk.

As for slotting him ahead of Bossy and Yzerman? Well, he was that good and a more complete player earlier than Stevie Y., as can be attested by Hawerchuk's presence as a "third-line grinder" on Team Canada at the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups; not only that, but in the '87 edition, when the score was tied 5-5 in the third and final game against the Soviet Union with just over a minute left and a face-off in the defensive zone, it was he that coach Mike Keenan trusted to face the powerful Russian top line, flanked by Gretzky and Lemieux. He won it, Lemieux chipped it, and they scored one of the most famous goals of all-time on a three-on-one with defenseman Larry Murphy crashing the Soviet net. None of that happens without #10.

Speaking of which, this is what he looked like at the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups wearing Canada's home (white) uniform, on card #88 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Team Canada Juniors set and Alumni sub-set:
To this day, I still haven't actually purchased a pack or box from that set, but I do buy unsigned cards and send them by mail, which is how I got this one back after sending Hawerchuk a letter care of the Colts last season.

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