Dave Semenko—The Policeman
Dave Semenko never accumulated as
many penalty minutes as other enforcers, or at the
same pace as Oiler pugilists like Kevin McClelland or
Marty McSorley. His reputation was enough. During the 1980s, Semenko was a notorious tough guy,
and many scrappers in the NHL chose
not to incite his wrath.
Semenko was a larger-than-life cult
hero throughout the NHL, and fans still debate whether
or not he is the all-time toughest. Even
the great heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali
squared off in the ring against Semenko.
Semenko was famous for being the
protector of Wayne
Gretzky and the other Oiler stars. Oiler players got room and respect on the
ice because opponents never dared arouse Semenko's wrath.
Semenko was an Oiler before
Messier, Kevin Lowe or
Paul Coffey signed with the club. A former member of the
rough-and-tumble Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western
Hockey League, the Oilers signed the Winnipeg native in
1977, when the team was still a fixture in the World
Hockey Association. He scored 16 goals, accumulated 298
penalty minutes in his two WHA seasons with the club,
and was the last player to score in WHA history.
Semenko took his fearsome reputation
to the NHL when the Oilers joined that league in 1979.
He remained with the team until 1986-87, when the Oilers
traded him to the
Hartford Whalers. He enjoyed
his busiest season in 1981-82, when he racked up 194
Semenko was a key reason why the
Oilers won Cups in 1984 and 1985. During the 1984
playoffs, he earned 10 points in 19 games, heady numbers
for an enforcer.
After playing in Hartford for most of
the 1986-87 season, Semenko moved to Toronto to play for
the Leafs for the 1987-88 campaign. He retired after
that season with 1,175 career penalty minutes.
In 1996, he became an assistant coach
with the Oilers, and then joined the scouting staff.