Dale Hawerchuk was the gift that kept on giving to the Winnipeg Jets. In return for their lousy, last-place finish (9-57-14) in 1981, they were able to draft Hawerchuk first overall. Having earned 103 points in his first season, Hawerchuk was the youngest to reach 100 and received the Calder Memorial Trophy as top rookie. Then, on March 6, 1984, Hawerchuk set an assist record that still stands.
That night, the Jets visited the Los Angeles Kings at the Forum to play before an audience of 8,392. The visitors had Marc Behrend, goalie for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, in net for his second start. The home team had Markus Mattson in net during what would be his last month in the NHL (since joining in 1979). Neither team was having a super stellar season, but the Kings were especially struggling and unlikely to make playoffs. Coach Roger Neilson said, “Tonight was our last gasp. If we would have won all three games against Winnipeg we would have had a slim chance.”
The Jets took the lead by scoring the only goal of the first period. Teammates Paul MacLean (right wing) and Morris Lukowich (left wing) began their back-and-forth with MacLean’s goal from Lukowich’s assist. They continued their success throughout the second period thanks to center Hawerchuk’s help. At 3:31, Lukowich scored on Hawerchuk’s first assist of the night. After two Kings’ goals (by Terry Ruskowski and Charlie Simmer) tied the scoring, Hawerchuk assisted defenseman Wade Campbell at 7:45. Then MacLean came out to score a power-play goal at 9:29 followed by earning his hat trick at 13:27. Naturally, Hawerchuk set up both. Just as the period was about to end, at 19:51, both Hawerchuk and MacLean helped Lukowich score again. After all that excitement, the Jets scored a final goal at 8:34 of the third while the Kings notched one more at 13:43. Thanks to the five-goal spree in the middle, the final score was 7-3.
Hawerchuk’s five assists in one period set a record that has not been broken despite numerous players notching three or four assists at a time. After being named captain going into the 1984-85 season, Hawerchuk was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 1990. He signed with the St. Louis Blues in 1995 but was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. Plagued by arthritis in his hip, Hawerchuk retired in 1997. He had spent five seasons in the top ten for assists and ended his career with a total of 891 assists, which places him 21st in the all-time list. All those assists (with 518 goals) added up to 1,409 career points, which places Hawerchuk 20th overall. He had recorded more than one point each game for 13 seasons. For all his accomplishments, Hawerchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
- Mike Commito, Hockey 365: Daily Stories from the Ice (Toronto: Dundurn, 2018), kindle version.
- Sam McManis, “Kings Don’t Make Trade, Can’t Stop Slide,” Los Angeles Times, 7 March 1984, p. 36.