27 Days Until The Season Begins

Cam Lewis
9 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 27 we have Dave Semenko, one of the best enforcers ever to play in the NHL.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Semenko played junior hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings. He scored 27 goals and 60 points while racking up 265 penalty minutes over 61 games in 1976-77 and was selected in the second round of both the NHL and WHA drafts by the Minnesota North Stars and Houston Aeros.
Semenko returned to Brandon for the 1977-78 season but played only seven games before moving up to the professional ranks. The Aeros traded Semenko to the Oilers and he finished the 1977-78 season with 12 points and 140 penalty minutes over 65 games as a rookie in the WHA.
When the two leagues merged in 1979, the existing NHL teams were able to reclaim players whom they previously held NHL rights from the WHA clubs that they had joined. The North Stars still held Semenko’s rights and they claimed him when the Oilers entered the league. Edmonton wound up trading their second- and third-round picks to Minnesota to keep Semenko.
Robin Brownlee wrote about Semenko during his Top 100 Oilers countdown a few years ago and spoke about how important he was to the team during those Stanley Cup years.
The Oilers of the Boys on the Bus era weren’t only known as having some of the best players in the game – Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey and the rest – they had a string of guys who ranked among the toughest in the league at any given time like Semenko, Kevin McClelland, Marty McSorley and Dave Brown. I don’t think, given how the game was played then, that’s a coincidence.
Gretzky and the other future HHOF players on those great Oiler teams have said more than once in the years since the glory days they were able to do what they did because guys like Semenko took care of their end of the game – the fighting, the intimidating, the bloody knuckles work. That role doesn’t hold the same importance now, but it damn sure did then. I really can’t think of anybody who understood his role better than Semenko, who chronicled his career in the book Looking Out For Number One.
Semenko spent eight seasons with the Oilers in the NHL and scored 59 goals and 136 points over 454 games while racing up 981 penalty minutes. He won two Stanley Cups with the team and scored six goals and 12 points over 69 playoff games.
The Oilers traded Semanko to the Hartford Whalers in December of 1986 and he was traded again ahead of the 1987-88 season to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He retired after that season and served in multiple positions with the Oilers after his playing career, including as a radio broadcaster, assistant coach, and scout.
On June 29, 2017, Semenko passed away following a battle with liver and pancreatic cancer. His funeral was held at Rogers Place and fans were welcomed to attend his celebration of life.

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