He wasn’t an All Star. He wasn’t a Hall of Famer either but if you asked anyone this week, his impact on the Oilers and the city of Edmonton on and off the ice was just as high as those named Gretzky, Messier and Fuhr.
Yesterday (July 6), thousands of friends, family and fans got a chance at Rogers Place to publicly say goodbye to Dave Semenko, also known as Sammy, who passed away at age 59 from pancreatic cancer on June 29th. The ceremony was, yes, one that brought tears but brought so much laughter throughout the afternoon remembering the good times of the Winnipeg native.
Virtually every member of the 1980s Oilers was in attendance from of course Wayne Gretzky to Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, and many many more.
The speeches of Wayne Gretzky and Glen Sather had many in stitches recalling stories ranging from the enforcer crashing into a tree head first while skiing and still trying to hit on an attractive ski instructor immediately afterwards by saying “how ya like me now??”, to the entire Oilers bench giving Grant Fuhr grief for not letting Semeko score on a breakaway when he returned to Edmonton as a member of the Hartford Whalers only to learn that he’d missed after Fuhr opened his five hole for him.
I was too young to have ever watched Dave play live in the NHL (he retired after the 1987-88 season while yours truly didn’t make his debut on Earth until the 2nd half of the 92-93 season) but I still felt it was important to go down and pay my respects to an icon of this franchise and I wasn’t the only youthful face in the crowd as all ages packed the lower bowl of the arena.
Semenko was beloved not just for what he did on the ice with his fists and his stick, he truly loved this team and city and served in almost every capacity imaginable in his post playing days ranging from coaching, scouting, a colour analyst on 630 CHED and his final role, being the only paid team ambassador.
In their post playing days, players usually wouldn’t stick around Edmonton but Dave was one of the exceptions. This city became his home, he was one of us through and through and the fans absolutely loved his loyalty.
Away from hockey, his daughter Hannah and brother Brian let us know just how much he’d be missed, be it as being the ultimate protector to his kids or bringing laughter to every family dinner. It was said that not a single crass word could have been said about the big guy and with the outpouring of sympathies from around the hockey world it seems that absolutely was true.
The legacy of Dave Semenko is one that as long as there’s hockey being played in Edmonton will never be lost; the citizens of this city won’t allow that to happen.
Rest in Peace Sammy.