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Jets' leading scorer Dale Hawerchuk was named team captain during training camp
By Howard Berger
Although he refuses to make a fuss over it, Dale Hawerchuk was not invited to Team Canada's training camp for the Canada Cup international hockey tournament. After all, Hawerchuk did place 11th in league scoring last season with 102 points - more than fellow centres Denis Savard, Steve Yzerman and Brent Sutter, all of whom made Team Canada.
"I didn't get off to a real good start last year and we didn't really play a very good brand of hockey as a team," Hawerchuk, 21, says. "So, I suppose he (Team Canada boss Glen Sather) didn't think I could help the club. I guess you can't argue with him. Canada won the tournament."
While he may not receive the widespread publicity of other NHL superstars, Hawerchuk is still the pivotal figure in the Winnipeg organization. General manager John Ferguson and coach Barry Long are so convinced of his leadership qualities, they named Hawerchuk team captain during training camp. He succeeds Lucien DeBlois who was traded to Montreal Canadiens last summer for Perry Turnbull. The No. 1 pick in the 1981 amateur draft, Hawerchuk will never win a team award all by himself. But, if the Jets rise to Stanley Cup contention in the next few years, a large chunk of the club's fortunes will be resting with his abilities.
"I've had my ups and downs during my first three pro seasons," admits Hawerchuk, who has compiled season point totals of 103, 91 and 102. "But, a lot of my problems have been team oriented and I don't think I'd change too many personal things I have done since the beginning."
Hawerchuk's moral and technical battles with former Jets' coach Tom Watt are legendary. A strict and sometimes stubborn disciplinarian, Watt rarely saw eye to eye with his talented centre-ice man during the two-and-a-half seasons they were together. Their stormy relationship reached a boiling point early last season and it contributed to Hawerchuk's slow start and Watt's subsequent dismissal.
"I don't like to harp too much on the Tom Watt situation but it did affect my play early last season," Hawerchuk says. "He called all the shots and you either did it his way, or no way. Unfortunately, his system detracted from my strengths and we were never on the best of terms. I suppose we can play better defensively as a team but I don't think we have to change our offensive approach too much."
"When you have a good offensive team, it should be tougher for your opponents to score," he surmises. "The classic example is Edmonton. The Oilers have control of the puck so much of the time that it's tough to run up a huge score on them. No team can put the puck in the net unless it has the puck a lot. Scoring is our strength and I think Barry Long realizes it. His system is geared towards our abilities."
While relaxing in the off-season, Hawerchuk almost won the Manitoba Amateur Golf Tournament. He led the pack after two rounds but he tailed off and wound up in seventh spot. "I have lots of time off in the summer and I found I really enjoy playing golf."
Slated to center a line, this year, with Paul MacLean and either Perry Turnbull or Brian Mullen, Hawerchuk should enjoy another productive season. If his teammates follow suit, so will the Jets.