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.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
PRE-DRAFT AWARDS AND HONORS
- 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.
- 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.
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."