He was just two when his family moved to Timmins, Ontario. However, Walt Tkaczuk still has the honour of being the first player born in Germany to play a game in the National Hockey League. To honour that, O-Pee-Chee misspelled his place of birth more than once on the back of his early hockey cards.
Tkaczuk remains one of just three Kitchener Rangers to win the Red Tilson Trophy as OHL most valuable player. He remained with the New York Rangers through his entire NHL career and is still among the franchise’s top ten for career assists, points and games played.
Walt Tkaczuk – Junior and Minor Pro
With the New York Rangers system right from the start, Walt Tkaczuk spent parts of five seasons with the OHA Junior A Kitchener Rangers from 1963-64 to 1967-68. Over his stay, he scored 75 and assisted on 141 for 219 points in 175 regular season games. Walt added 81 points in 51 playoff games.
In his third season, 1965-66, Tkaczuk and the Rangers finished just seventh in the nine team league. However, the club reached the finals before being bounced by Bobby Orr and the Oshawa Generals.
In 1966-67, Tkaczuk was eighth in the league with 70 points and sixth with 47 assists. The Rangers won the Hamilton Spectator Trophy as OHL regular season champions. Kitchener went to the semi-finals before losing out to the Toronto Marlboros. That year, Walt was named a Second Team All-Star at Centre.
His final year with Kitchener was his best. He tied for sixth with 37 goals, placed fifth with 56 assists and finished fourth in the race for the Eddie Powers Trophy with 93 points. He was honoured with the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most valuable player and was named a First Team All-Star centre.
Kitchener again finished first overall in 1967-68, earning their second consecutive Hamilton Spectator Trophy. The Rangers reached the finals but bowed out to the Niagara Falls Flyers in a tight and long series. The first game was a tie. It took seven more games for the Flyers to advance. He also played in his first two NHL games with New York that year.
In his final two seasons, Tkaczuk was team captain for the Rangers. He is not among the five numbers honoured by the team. The criteria is that the player must end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The five include Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Paul Coffey, Bill Barber and Larry Robinson.
Walt spent little time in the minors. His first pro action came at the end of the 1966-67 season when he joined up with the Fred Shero coached Omaha Knights in the CPHL. He played three post season games for the Knights, a team that lost in the finals to the Oklahoma City Blazers.
In 1968-69, his first full year of pro hockey, Tkaczuk played five games in the American Hockey League with the Buffalo Bisons. With two goals and seven assists, it was clear he belonged in the NHL. The New York Rangers called him up and he never looked back.
Walt Tkaczuk – NHL
Between 1967-68 and 1980-81, Walt Tkaczuk played in 945 regular season games in the NHL, all with the New York Rangers. Over that time, he scored 222 and assisted on 451 for 678 points. He would have easily reached the 1,000 game plateau if not for a career ending eye injury 43 games into 1980-81.
Originally a member of the Bulldog Line with Bill Fairbairn and Dave Balon (Balon was later replaced by Steve Vickers), Tkaczuk was a 20 goal scorer six times during his NHL career. He topped out in 1969-70 with 27 goals and 50 assists for 77 points. His assist total was good for fourth in the league and his points placed him fifth in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.
Never a Stanley Cup champion, Walt did play in the finals twice. In 1971-72, the Rangers were topped by the Boston Bruins in the finals. In 1978-79, he was reunited with head coach Fred Shero as the Rangers reached the finals before bowing to the Montreal Canadiens.
Walt took over the captaincy for New York at the start of the 1980-81 season, replacing Dave Maloney. However, he wore the ‘C’ for just 43 games before the eye injury ended his career. He was replaced by Barry Beck as team captain.
Nearing four decades since he last played, Walt remains among the top scorers in New York Rangers history. His 451 assists rank him fifth and his 678 points place him sixth. His 945 regular season games are the fifth most by a player in a Rangers uniform.
Walt Tkaczuk – Rookie Card
The Walt Tkaczuk rookie card appears as number 43 in the 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee and Topps NHL hockey card sets. He is, of course, shown with the Rangers. Walt’s final card is included in the 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets as number 211.
In 1970-71 and 1971-72, O-Pee-Chee misspelled Tkaczuk’s place of birth as Emstedetten, Germany. It should be Emsdetten and was spelled correctly on later cards.
Interestingly, in 1972-73, O-Pee-Chee did not print a regular card for Walt. He was featured on a ‘NHL Action Card’ but, of course, the back did not have stats or vitals. Topps, however, did print a regular card for Tkaczuk and not an ‘NHL Action Card’. Both had the same picture on the front with Walt swarming the Boston Bruins net.
Walt Tkaczuk Career Stats
|1966-67||Omaha Knights||CPHL||Playoffs Only|
|1967-68||New York Rangers||NHL||2||0||0||0||0|
|1968-69||New York Rangers||NHL||71||12||24||36||28|
|1969-70||New York Rangers||NHL||76||27||50||77||38|
|1970-71||New York Rangers||NHL||77||26||49||75||48|
|1971-72||New York Rangers||NHL||76||24||42||66||65|
|1972-73||New York Rangers||NHL||76||27||39||66||59|
|1973-74||New York Rangers||NHL||71||21||42||63||58|
|1974-75||New York Rangers||NHL||62||11||25||36||34|
|1975-76||New York Rangers||NHL||78||8||28||36||56|
|1976-77||New York Rangers||NHL||80||12||38||50||38|
|1977-78||New York Rangers||NHL||80||26||40||66||30|
|1978-79||New York Rangers||NHL||77||15||27||42||38|
|1979-80||New York Rangers||NHL||76||12||25||37||36|
|1980-81||New York Rangers||NHL||43||6||22||28||28|