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. During his National Hockey League (NHL) career, Semenko played for the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs as an enforcer. During his tenure with Edmonton, he notably protected Wayne Gretzky as an "on-ice bodyguard" during Gretzky'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 (WHA) before it folded and merged with the NHL.


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.


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 NHL and the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association (WHA). [2]

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]

When the Oilers joined the NHL, Semenko's rights were retained by the North Stars. The Oilers traded their second-and third-round draft picks in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft to acquire his rights from the North Stars, who then drafted future Hockey 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]

An acknowledged enforcer, Semenko 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 the Hartford Whalers in 1986. [2] Semenko is considered one of the toughest players ever in the NHL. [5] [6] [7] [8] 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]

Semenko 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 Ali was not seriously trying and was just toying with Semenko. [2]

After brief stops with the Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs, Semenko retired following the 1987–88 season. He finished his 575-game NHL career with 65 goals, 153 points and 1,175 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 in Edmonton, which was open for the public to attend.

Career statistics

   Regular season   Playoffs
Season TeamLeagueGP G A Pts PIM GPGAPtsPIM
1974–75 Brandon Travellers MJHL 4211172855
1974–75 Brandon Wheat Kings WCHL 122131240000
1975–76 Brandon Wheat KingsWCHL72851319450000
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

June 14, 1977: Selected by the Minnesota North Stars in the second round, 25th overall, during the 1977 NHL amateur draft.

June 16, 1977: Selected by the Houston Aeros in the second 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 second-round (Neal Broten) and third-round draft pick (Kevin Maxwell) in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.

December 12, 1986: Traded to the Hartford Whalers by Edmonton in exchange for Hartford's third-round draft pick (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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