Semenko in 2016
July 12, 1957|
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
June 29, 2017 (aged 59)|
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
|Height||6 ft 3 in (191 cm)|
|Weight||215 lb (98 kg; 15 st 5 lb)|
Toronto Maple Leafs
25th overall, 1977|
Minnesota North Stars
21st overall, 1977|
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.
Semenko played junior hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings. 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).
The Aeros traded Semenko to the Oilers just before their 1977–78 season. He spent his first two professional years as a member of the Oilers in the WHA before the NHL–WHA merger. 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.
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.
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. Semenko is considered one of the toughest players ever in the NHL. 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. 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.
Semenko fought boxing legend Muhammad Ali in an exhibition on June 12, 1983. 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.
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. Semenko also recorded 70 fights over his career.
After retiring, Semenko became a colour commentator on Oilers radio broadcasts and was an assistant coach with the Oilers during the 1996–97 season. He also served as a professional scout for the team from 1997 until 2015.
Semenko died on June 29, 2017, 13 days before his 60th birthday and shortly after being diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancer. His funeral was held at Rogers Place in Edmonton, which was open for the public to attend.
|1974–75||Brandon Wheat Kings||WCHL||12||2||1||3||12||4||0||0||0||—|
|1975–76||Brandon Wheat Kings||WCHL||72||8||5||13||194||5||0||0||0||—|
|1976–77||Brandon Wheat Kings||WCHL||61||27||33||60||265||16||3||4||7||61|
|1977–78||Brandon Wheat Kings||WCHL||7||10||5||15||40||—||—||—||—||—|
|1987–88||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||70||2||3||5||107||—||—||—||—||—|
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.