Dave Semenko

Last updated
Dave Semenko
Dave Semenko 2016.jpg
Semenko in 2016
Born(1957-07-12)July 12, 1957
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Died June 29, 2017(2017-06-29) (aged 59)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight 215 lb (98 kg; 15 st 5 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shot Left
Played for Edmonton Oilers
Hartford Whalers
Toronto Maple Leafs
NHL Draft 25th overall, 1977
Minnesota North Stars
WHA Draft 21st overall, 1977
Houston Aeros
Playing career 19771988

David John Semenko (July 12, 1957 – June 29, 2017) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player, coach, scout, and colour commentator. Semenko played for the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, and Toronto Maple Leafs as an enforcer. He protected Wayne Gretzky as an on-ice bodyguard, during the superstar's early career. Semenko won two Stanley Cups with the Oilers in 1984 and 1985. He was also the last player to score a goal in the World Hockey Association before it folded and merged with the NHL.

Canadians citizens of Canada

Canadians are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, several of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Canadian.

Ice hockey team sport played on ice using sticks, skates, and a puck

Ice hockey is a contact team sport played on ice, usually in a rink, in which two teams of skaters use their sticks to shoot a vulcanized rubber puck into their opponent's net to score points. The sport is known to be fast-paced and physical, with teams usually consisting of six players each: one goaltender, and five players who skate up and down the ice trying to take the puck and score a goal against the opposing team.

Color commentator Sports commentator who assists the play-by-play announcer

A color commentator or expert commentator is a sports commentator who assists the main commentator, often by filling in any time when play is not in progress. The phrase "color commentator" is primarily used in American English; the concept may also be referred to as a summariser or analyst. The color analyst and main commentator will often exchange comments freely throughout the broadcast, when the main commentator is not describing the action. The color commentator provides expert analysis and background information, such as statistics, strategy, and injury reports on the teams and athletes, and occasionally anecdotes or light humor. Color commentators are often former athletes or coaches of the sport being broadcast.


Following his retirement as a player, he became a radio commentator of Oilers' games. Semenko died on June 29, 2017, from liver and pancreatic cancer.

Liver cancer gastrointestinal system cancer, located in the liver

Liver cancer, also known as hepatic cancer and primary hepatic cancer, is cancer that starts in the liver. Cancer which has spread from elsewhere to the liver, known as liver metastasis, is more common than that which starts in the liver. Symptoms of liver cancer may include a lump or pain in the right side below the rib cage, swelling of the abdomen, yellowish skin, easy bruising, weight loss and weakness.

Pancreatic cancer endocrine gland cancer located in the pancreas

Pancreatic cancer arises when cells in the pancreas, a glandular organ behind the stomach, begin to multiply out of control and form a mass. These cancerous cells have the ability to invade other parts of the body. There are a number of types of pancreatic cancer. The most common, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, accounts for about 85% of cases, and the term "pancreatic cancer" is sometimes used to refer only to that type. These adenocarcinomas start within the part of the pancreas which makes digestive enzymes. Several other types of cancer, which collectively represent the majority of the non-adenocarcinomas, can also arise from these cells. One to two percent of cases of pancreatic cancer are neuroendocrine tumors, which arise from the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. These are generally less aggressive than pancreatic adenocarcinoma.


Semenko played junior hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings. [1] He was originally selected 25th overall in 1977 by the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League and the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. [2]

Brandon Wheat Kings ice hockey team

The Brandon Wheat Kings are a Canadian junior ice hockey team based in Brandon, Manitoba. They are members of the Western Hockey League, joining the league in the 1967–68 season. Prior to that they played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League except for two seasons in the mid-1960s when they played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The team was known as the Brandon Elks for a short time in the late 1930s. They won 8 Turnbull Cup Championships as Manitoba Junior Champions, 1939, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1960, 1962, 1963, & 1964 and appeared in the Memorial Cup six times: in 1949, 1979, 1995, 1996, 2010, and 2016, losing each time. The team plays its home games at the Keystone Centre. They also played at Wheat City Arena until 1969, and the Manex Arena from 1969 to 1972. Between 1973 and 1980, the Wheat Kings owned and operated a farm team in the MJHL, called the Travellers. The Wheat Kings are currently the only Western Hockey League franchise based in the province of Manitoba.

Minnesota North Stars former hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Minnesota North Stars were a professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 26 seasons, from 1967 to 1993. The North Stars played their home games at the Met Center in Bloomington, and the team's colors for most of its history were green, yellow, gold and white. The North Stars played 2,062 regular season games and made the NHL playoffs 17 times, including two Stanley Cup Finals appearances. In the fall of 1993, the franchise moved to Dallas, and is now known as the Dallas Stars.

National Hockey League North American professional ice hockey league

The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America, currently comprising 31 teams: 24 in the United States and 7 in Canada. The NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season.

The Aeros traded Semenko to the Oilers just before their 1977–78 season. [2] He spent his first two professional years as a member of the Oilers in the WHA before the NHL–WHA merger. [3] He scored the final goal in WHA history in Game 6 of the 1979 Avco Cup finals, which the Oilers lost to the Winnipeg Jets. [4] [2]

The 1977–78 Edmonton Oilers season was the Oilers' sixth season of operation. The Oilers placed fifth to qualify for the playoffs, losing in the first round.

The 1979 merger of the NHL and WHA was the culmination of several years of negotiations between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the World Hockey Association (WHA) that resulted in the WHA and all of its surviving franchises folding in return for the owners of four of the WHA's six surviving teams being granted expansion franchises that commenced play in the NHL for the 1979–80 season. The agreement officially took effect on June 22, 1979. The merger ended the seven-year existence of the WHA and re-established the NHL as the lone major league in North American professional ice hockey.

Winnipeg Jets (1972–96) former hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Winnipeg Jets were a professional ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They began play in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1972. The club joined the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979 after the NHL merged with the WHA. Due to mounting financial troubles, in 1996 the franchise moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2011 the Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg and restored the Jets name, although the prior Jets club history is retained by the Arizona club.

When the Oilers then joined the NHL, Semenko's rights were still held by the North Stars. The Oilers traded their second and third round picks in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft to acquire his rights from the North Stars who then drafted future hall-of-famer Neal Broten. The trade also gave the Oilers a third round pick, which was used to select future Oilers superstar Mark Messier. [2]

The 1979 NHL Entry Draft took place on August 9, 1979, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. The National Hockey League (NHL) teams selected 126 players eligible for entry into professional ranks, in the reverse order of the 1978–79 NHL season and playoff standings. The draft was the first to be conducted after the NHL-WHA merger. As part of the terms of the merger, the four former WHA teams had joined the NHL on the condition that they be placed at the bottom of the draft order, as opposed to the top of the order as is usually the case for expansion teams.

Neal Broten American ice hockey player

Neal LaMoy Broten is an American former professional ice hockey player. A member of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team that won the gold medal at Lake Placid in 1980, Broten was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 having appeared in 1,099 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season games from 1981 to 1997 with the Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings. He is the older brother of Aaron and Paul Broten.

Mark Messier Canadian ice hockey player

Mark John Douglas Messier is a Canadian former professional ice hockey center of the National Hockey League and former special assistant to the president and general manager of the New York Rangers. He played a quarter of a century in the NHL (1979–2004) with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks. He also played professionally with the World Hockey Association (WHA)'s Indianapolis Racers and Cincinnati Stingers. He was the last former WHA player to be active in professional hockey, and the last active player who had played in the NHL in the 1970s.

An acknowledged enforcer, he was Wayne Gretzky's on-ice bodyguard early in Gretzky's career in Edmonton, beginning in the WHA in 1978, and ending when Semenko was traded to Hartford in 1986. [2] Semenko is considered one of the toughest players ever in the NHL. [5] [6] [7] [8] The protection offered by Semenko allowed Edmonton's stars—Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey—more freedom on the ice, contributing to the Oilers' Stanley Cup triumphs in 1984 and 1985. [9] After Gretzky won a car for being chosen as the MVP of the 1983 NHL All-Star game, he gifted the car to Semenko to show his appreciation for his on-ice work. [2]

Enforcer is an unofficial role in ice hockey. The term is sometimes used synonymously with "fighter", "tough guy", or "goon". An enforcer's job is to deter and respond to dirty or violent play by the opposition. When such play occurs, the enforcer is expected to respond aggressively, by fighting or checking the offender. Enforcers are expected to react particularly harshly to violence against star players or goalies.

Wayne Gretzky Canadian ice hockey player

Wayne Douglas Gretzky is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed "The Great One", he has been called "the greatest hockey player ever" by many sportswriters, players, and the league itself. Gretzky is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. He garnered more assists than any other player scored total points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, Gretzky tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999 and persisting through 2017, he holds 61 NHL records: 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records.

The 1986–87 NHL season was the 70th season of the National Hockey League. The Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup by beating the Philadelphia Flyers four games to three in the Cup finals.

He fought boxing legend Muhammad Ali in an exhibition on June 12, 1983. [9] The match was officially a draw after going three rounds, but the Associated Press reported that Ali was not seriously trying and was just toying with Semenko. [2]

After brief stops with the Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs, he retired following the 1987–88 season. He finished his 575-game NHL career with 65 goals, 153 points, and 1175 penalty minutes. [10] Semenko also recorded 70 fights over his career. [2]

Retirement and death

After retiring, Semenko became a colour commentator on Oilers radio broadcasts and was an assistant coach with the Oilers during the 1996–97 season. [11] He also served as a professional scout for the team from 1997 until 2015. [3]

Semenko died on June 29, 2017, 13 days before his 60th birthday and shortly after being diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancer. [12] [2] His funeral was held at Rogers Place, which was open for the public to attend.

Career statistics

   Regular season   Playoffs
Season TeamLeagueGP G A Pts PIM GPGAPtsPIM
1974–75 Brandon Wheat Kings WCHL 12213124000
1975–76 Brandon Wheat KingsWCHL7285131945000
1976–77 Brandon Wheat KingsWCHL612733602651634761
1977–78 Brandon Wheat KingsWCHL71051540
1977–78 Edmonton Oilers WHA 65661214050008
1978–79 Edmonton OilersWHA771014241581142629
1979–80 Edmonton Oilers NHL 67671313530002
1980–81 Edmonton OilersNHL58118198080005
1980–81 Wichita Wind CHL 1412340
1981–82 Edmonton OilersNHL5912122419440002
1982–83 Edmonton OilersNHL751215271411511269
1983–84 Edmonton OilersNHL526111711816551044
1984–85 Edmonton OilersNHL69612181721400039
1985–86 Edmonton OilersNHL6961218141600032
1986–87 Edmonton OilersNHL50000
1986–87 Hartford Whalers NHL51481287400015
1987–88 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL70235107
WHA totals1421620362981642637
NHL totals57565881531175736612208

Awards and achievements

Career transactions

1977: Selected by the Minnesota North Stars in the 2nd round, 25th overall during the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft.

May, 1977: Selected by the Houston Aeros in the 2nd round, 21st overall during the 1977 WHA Amateur Draft.

November, 1977: Traded to the Edmonton Oilers by Houston in exchange for future considerations.

June 9, 1979: Reclaimed by Minnesota from Edmonton during the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft.

August 9, 1979: Traded to Edmonton by Minnesota in exchange for Edmonton's 2nd round pick (Neal Broten) and 3rd round pick (Kevin Maxwell) in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.

December 12, 1986: Traded to the Hartford Whalers by Edmonton in exchange for Hartford's 3rd round choice (Trevor Sim) in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.

September 8, 1987: Traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Bill Root.

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  13. Russell, Kent. "I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son". Vintage. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
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