Dave Semenko was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who was a left-winger in the World Hockey Association (WHA) for two seasons and the NHL for 10 seasons. In total, he played 12 seasons in the highest professional hockey leagues in the world.
Semenko was best known for his time with the Edmonton Oilers, where he played alongside Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and many other skilled Oilers. He was also a key member of the Oilers’ Stanley Cup-winning teams.
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Semenko was known for his physical play and fighting ability and was considered one of the toughest players in the NHL during his career. He retired in 1990 and passed away in 2017.
In this post, I want to share nine cool things about the beloved Oilers’ enforcer.
Cool Thing 1: Semenko Was a Relatively High Draft Pick in 2 Leagues
For someone who turned out to be an enforcer, Semenko was drafted quite high in both the NHL and WHA Amateur Drafts. He was drafted in the second round in 1977 by the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars (25th overall) and by the WHA’s Houston Aeros (21st overall).
Had Semenko gone to the Aeros, he would have just missed playing with Gordie Howe, who played in Houston from 1973-74 to 1976-77. Instead, he was traded to the Oilers just before the Aeros’ 1977-78 season. There he got to play with Wayne Gretzky.
Cool Thing 2: Semenko Played on the Same Line as Gretzky
Semenko was an important member of the Oilers’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1984 and 1985. During those seasons, he played on the same line as Gretzky. One of his jobs was to be a physical force to keep the wolves away from Gretzky’s door.
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Semenko’s fighting ability helped to protect Gretzky during his time on the ice. His on-ice presence was a deterrent to opposing players and helped keep the ice clear for Gretzky and the other skilled players on the Oilers.
Semenko became a close friend of Gretzky during their time together on the Oilers. He was often referred to as Gretzky’s “bodyguard.” They remained close even after Semenko retired from playing.
Cool Thing 3: Semenko Scored the Final Goal in WHA History
Semenko spent his first two professional seasons as a member of the Oilers when they were in the WHA prior to the NHL–WHA merger. He scored the final goal in WHA history in Game 6 of the 1979 Avco Cup finals, which the Oilers lost to the Winnipeg Jets.
Cool Thing 4: Semenko Had Good Hockey Skills
In addition to his role as a protector for the skilled Oilers, Semenko was also a strong skater who had good hands. In 1976-77 with the Brandon Wheat Kings, he scored 27 goals and added 33 assists (for 60 points) in 61 games. He also collected 265 penalty minutes during that season.
Despite his reputation as an enforcer, Semenko was not without good hockey skills. Overall, his physicality, skill, and leadership made him a valuable member of the Oilers and helped them win two Stanley Cups.
Cool Thing 5: Semenko Was a Good Penalty Killer
Semenko was also known for his effective penalty-killing. During his time with the Oilers, he helped the team maintain a strong penalty kill. That skill helped make him a valuable contributor on the ice and an important part of their success.
Cool Thing 6: Semenko’s Nickname Was Cementhead
Semenko’s nickname was “Cementhead.” It was one he wore with pride. Ironically, it was probably because he could take a punch or two without blinking.
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However, that nickname hid the fact that he was also known to be a true gentleman and treated others with respect. He was a player who was respected by both opponents and teammates alike, and his legacy continues to live on in the NHL today.
Cool Thing 7: Semenko Had a Close Relationship with Glenn Sather
Semenko had a close relationship with Glenn Sather, who was the head coach and general manager of the Oilers during his time with the team. Sather was known for his willingness to take chances on players, and Semenko was one of those players.
Sather saw Semenko’s value as an enforcer and kept him on the team despite the fact that he was not a traditional scorer. Semenko and Sather had a strong rapport. Sather often described him as a “coach’s dream” because of his work ethic and team-first mentality. The two remained close friends even after Semenko retired from hockey.
Cool Thing 8: Semenko Was a Successful Businessman
Semenko possessed skills outside of hockey. For example, he was a skilled golfer and regularly played in charity golf tournaments. He was also a successful businessman, owning several businesses in the Edmonton area.
Cool Thing 9: Semenko Was a Warm Personality Off the Ice
Semenko was a beloved figure in the Oilers organization and the wider hockey community. His physical presence and tough-guy image masked a gentle and warm personality off the ice. Semenko passed away in June 2017 at the age of 59, after a brief battle with cancer. He will be remembered as one of the toughest and most respected players in NHL history.
Those who knew him in Edmonton will remember him. His contributions to the Oilers and the sport of hockey will hold a special place in the hearts of fans who watched him play.