Today I ventured to Rogers Place for the first time since Game 4 of the playoffs. This time was for a far less joyous occasion, the celebration of David John Semenko. I must say that the Oilers did a beautiful job of putting on this event.
Around the west half of the arena sat about 4000 fans, of all ages and manner of dress. There were younger fans wearing number 27 whether it was for Lucic, Semenko and even some Laraque jerseys. Older fans dressed in their Semenko jerseys and some dressed in more funeral attire. Then there were super fans like these two decked out, and embracing the celebration to a T.
Many Oilers greats, alumni and staff spotted the filled arena floor. Then of course friends and family of Dave from far and wide as well.
A video montage started the celebration off on a great note. Quotes of ‘Semenk’ played throughout to the crowds’ enjoyment. Always quick with the wit and well-placed humour as Dave was, it would be a running theme throughout the afternoon. The biggest laugh coming as Dave squared off with a Penguins player, who was still on the bench, during a brawl in Oilers silks.
Father Michael McCaffery was presiding over the ceremony made sure to remind everyone that Dave was a man who liked to laugh and so he would only want us to on a day like today as well.
Dave’s daughter, Hannah Semenko gave the first speech on the afternoon and was inspiring strong through what must have been a tough time. She told a story of one of Dave’s first acts as an ambassador for the Oilers, and when asked how he did, her dad replied “I brought the house down” which became an inside joke for their family. She finished by saying her dad can rest assured that her dad would indeed bring the house down one last time.
Hannah was followed by many Oilers regaling of tales of Dave from the past. A favourite for the crowd was a story that Wayne Gretzky told speaking to how Dave thought he did pretty well in life. Semenko said that had four goals:
- Make the NHL – Done
- Be a star of the week – Done
- Hoist a Stanley Cup – Check and Check
- Having Glen Sather come into the room and telling him and Gretz, Mess and Coff, they could have the day off the next day. This was a goal that was sadly never attained.
After a blast from the past performance by Cheatin and Hurtin, Dave’s childhood friend Randy Donkersloot spoke of a younger Dave and what he was like early in life. Then came Glenn Anderson with his rousing rendition Ecclesiastes 3:1 which left not a dry eye in the crowd. Even as Father Mike came back to close out the ceremony, he was emotional and remarked as much saying he had heard that Bible verse read out many times before but never so beautiful.
The gathered crowd rose and watched as Dave was wheeled out of an Oilers arena one last time.
I couldn’t help but think to myself. I am sure #99, #11, #7 and even Slats himself would agree.
Take the next day off Semenk, you earned it.