Hmmm. How does one describe Dave Semenko’s impact in Oiler games in the 1980’s? Dave Semenko was a crusher, a nuclear deterrent and fear incorporated all rolled into one. There were many times during the glory years that Glen Sather could settle a wild game down just by having the big man skate onto the ice during a stoppage in play. Dave Semenko was king of the NHL enforcers in the era where there was nowhere to hide. 


Last Team: Brandon (WCHL)                             
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada)
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1974-75 Brandon MJHL 42 11 17 28 55
  Brandon WCHL 12 2 1 3 12
1975-76 Brandon WCHL 72 8 5 13 194
1976-77 Brandon WCHL 61 27 33 60 265

Rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as WCHL’s No. 14 prospect for the 1977 NHL draft.

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 courtesy hockeydraftcentral

  • Chosen 25th overall by Minnesota in the 1977 NHL draft
  • Chosen 21st overall by Houston in the 1977 NHL draft

Semenko never played for either team, instead playing for the Edmonton Oilers (WHA) signing immediately after the Oilers acquired him from Houston 1977 (he had originally planned on spending the season in junior, but played only 7 games in the WHL). Semenko’s rights were returned to Minnesota with the NHL-WHA merger in 1979, but he was soon dealt back to Edmonton in exchange for 1979 second-round pick (Neal Broten) and 1979 third-round pick (Kevin Maxwell) on August 9, 1979.


Dave Semenko was a unique player and a famous personality in Edmonton during and after his playing days. Blessed with an exceptional sense of humor and a feared on-ice fighter, Semenko was "larger than life" in more ways than stature.

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  • Kevin Lowe: "The question has often been asked, how tough was Sammy? Pat Price would tell stories about the Gassoff brothers and Lee Fogolin had a few about Battleship Bob Kelly. Slats never forgot John Ferguson, and then there was Dave Schultz and the Broad Street Bullies. But the general consensus had it that Sammy was the toughest of all. He was in a class of his own; he didn’t beat guys up, he’d destroyed them. He employed a combination of sheer strength, sheer power, and sheer quickness, but mostly power. He wasted players with just two or three punches. And all this, although he never really had a mean streak in his body!"

He was not a terrific skater, although he did work hard to improve in that area. Semenko played on all 4 lines as needed, and helped score a few goals by standing in front of the net and blocking out the sun. Semenko was NOT a goon in the modern sense, altough toward the end of his career icetime had been greatly reduced–especially in his final season.


  • Scored last goal in WHA history during Game 6 of Avco Trophy final series on May 20, 1979, at Winnipeg
  • Two Stanley Cup wins (1984, 1985)
  • Ali v Semenko


By the time Edmonton traded Semenko, he’d collected close to 1,000 pims and played the enforcer role to several Hall of Famers. Edmonton relied heavily on the big man early in the 1980s, but by 1987 boasted the likes of Marty McSorley and  Kevin McClelland up front and plenty of enforcement along the blue. He was sent to Hartford December 12, 1986 for a 1988 3rd rd pick.


Semenko was a legendary player while in Edmonton and Oiler fans compare all comers in the "enforcer" division against their memory of "Sammy" during the glory days.

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Number 27 is Dave Semenko. It is easy to regard Semenko as a goon. He is 6.04, weighs 215 pounds and has fierce, dark eyes and a powerful jaw. He keeps his hair long and at training camp wore a headband that added to his Ukrainian gypsy air. On the ice, he is the team’s enforcer; and there are those who claim he is, or could be, the heavyweight champion of the NHL. Off the ice, though he has a quiet offhand wit that is difficult to capture in print.

One morning in training camp, he sat looking out over the ice, talking of what he’d done that summer, which turned out to be nothing (he is married and has a young son) and then he said: "do you know what I used to think about? Making a perfect pass. I’d think about coming out from our end, and just as I came out, sending it right across to the other side, and hitting my other winger in full stride just as he hit the other line. I’d dream about that play."


    • Spydyr


      That is it on Sememko post.That is the best you can come up with?

      Makes sad face.

      How does one describe Dave Semenko’s impact in Oiler games in the 1980’s?

      Answer….Look at Tim Hunter’s nose.

  • The Soup Fascist

    The picture at the top looks like a mugshot after a bender gone wrong …… but I digress.

    My favorite Sammy story was during an off season, a few years into his career. Slats, being Slats, gave Semenko an off season workout plan to follow to stay in shape and strengthen a knee he had tweaked, late in the year.

    During the summer Slats phoned up Sammy and asked him how the workout was going. Sammy replied, “it’s all good except for the jogging”. Slat’s quickly replied, “It’s the knee isn’t it, I was worried about that”.

    Sammy’s reply …… “Nope, the wind keeps putting my smoke out”. Sather dropped a couple F-bombs and hung up.


  • Reg Dunlop

    Best Semenko fight… Ron Delorme of the canucks. Sammy blasted Delorme’s helmet 10 feet straight up.

    With all due respect to a great inforcer, when the Bruins were in town and Stan Johnathan was on the ice, Semenko was meek as a kitten.

  • ShakyDS

    My favorite Oiler by a mile. I remember playing minor hockey and watching kids fight over jerseys with number 7,11,4,9, or 99. I always asked for #27 (which they never had). I wear # 27 to play rec now, and all the younger guys ask me why, and who wore it. Fools

  • vetinari

    He was for sure (because I’m not sure how to spell indefinetly)on of my favourite Oiler’s. That Battles of Alberta back then would have been very different without him.

    One thing has bothered me over the years. He fought a Canuck 3 times in one game. Kim Clackson or Clack Kimson or somthing like that. I was listening to Rod Phillips describe it (he was great with the fights. Loved his exagerations) . . anyway Sammy demolished this Kim or Kam in each fight. I never understood how or why this guy would come back a second and third time.

  • vetinari

    Always had a soft spot for Semenko… everytime he hit the ice, you wondered who would leave it at the end of a shift on the arm of a trainer.

    Battles of Alberta were literally wars back then, and guys like Gretzky should petition Katz to put a statue of Semenko in front of the arena because he cleared the ice for all the “skill” players to rack up the points.

  • SHARKY5150

    Great stuff Lowtide! I grew up with the Oilers in the 80’s. I must have read through the book by Peter Gzowski,” The Game of Our Lives” 3-4 times before I was 12. The profile he did on the Oilers 2nd season both filled and fueled my Oil obsession and I have always wanted to know what happened to many of those “characters” after the close of the Oilers sophomore season.
    I’d love to read profiles on a few of those first and second year Oilers. Players like Blair BJ MacDonald, Brett Callighen, Stan Weir, Jim Corsi, etc.
    That would be absolutely fantastic along with updates on what they are up to now. A Nation profile to go along with a segment on Nation Radio would be even better! An interview with some these guys would definitely have me tuning in every week! (I already am, but you get my point)
    Keep the Profiles coming!

  • vetinari

    I read in one of the many Gretzky bios I have been given over the years where Gretz’ was asked which player had the most effect on his career.

    He said Semenko, I am sure to many’s surprise. The big man’s presence allowed him (and the others) to play like they could, and survive it.

    Some of the younger readers may not be aware that when Gretzky came into the NHL, common wisdom from abroad said he wouldn’t be able to do what he had done before, basically because he was a wussy and too small.

    Of course when he immediately started blowing the doors off the league, he had a giant target on him, and as LT said, back then there was nowhere to hide. This was only a couple of years after the Broadstreet Bullies after all.

    The players in the league soon came to learn not to go too far with the Oiler’s talent (with Messier’s help of course, and Don Jackson, although I think he didn’t care if he won or not, he would smile at guys he was fighting, mouth bleeding, that has to make you wonder if you won or not).

    I remember him battling Jim Kyte (even bigger than Sammy), punching him so hard and Kyte just crumpling. I felt sorry for Kyte, it was ugly. In his prime Semenko was absolutely devastating.

    Also read where Semenko said Larry Playfair was the toughest guy he fought because he was so strong.

    The Oiler’s always were a tough team back then, be it Messier, McSorley, Manson, Brown, Marchment, even Kurri could chuck the mitts pretty good. Gretzky not so much. Things sure have changed.

  • ShakyDS

    Players on other teams had a nickname for 27 back then–they called him “Cementhead”. It was actually not as derogatory as it might first seem.

    Reason? He could take a punch right between the eyes, blink once, then proceed to beat the crap out of the other guy.

    That was the really scary thing about Semenko–a head shot that could drop a buffalo would only make him come back stronger in many fights.