Walter Robert Bogdan "Walt" Tkaczuk - Born September 29, 1947 in Emsdetten, Germany is a retired German/Canadian ice Hockey centre.
Tkaczuk moved to Canada when he was 2 years old, as his father got a job as a driller at the Jamieson Copper Mine in South Porcupine at Timmons, Ontario.
Timmons and the surrounding areas were a hot spot for Hockey, and as Tkaczuk grew up, so did his love for the game. He played with the South Porcupine Gold Kings as a youth, playing his first junior Hockey at age 16 with the Kitchener Greenshirts of the Central Junior B Hockey League.
Tkaczuk scored a amazing 25 goals, 37 assists for the Greenshirts in the first 30 games of the 1963-64 season, and was called up the the junior A team, the Kitchener Rangers to finish the season, scoring 5 goals, 5 assists in 21 games.
Tkaczuk played the 1964-65 season with the Greenshirts, helping them win the local league championship, and the 1965 Sutherland Cup championship, as Ontario junior B champions. He also played 7 games for the Rangers during the season.
Tkaczuk would then play for the Rangers for the next 3 seasons, helping them reach the 1966 OHA finals vs the Oshawa Generals. In the 1966-67 season, Tkaczuk had been named team captain, and was eighth in league scoring with 70 points and sixth with 47 assists. The Rangers won the 1967 Hamilton Spectator Trophy as OHL regular season champions. Kitchener went to the semi-finals before losing out to the Toronto Marlboros. That year, Tkaczuk was named a Second Team All-Star at Centre.
Tkaczuk also experienced his first pro Hockey, when the Fred Shero coached Omaha Knights invited him to play during the 1967 Central Professional Hockey League / CPHL playoffs. He scored 2 goals in 3 games, as the Knights lost in the CPHL final.
Tkaczuk's 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. The Rangers again finished first overall in the 1967-68 season, earning their second consecutive Hamilton Spectator Trophy. Tkaczuk was honoured with the 1968 Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most valuable player and was also named a OHA First Team All-Star at centre. The Rangers again made it to the OHA finals, but losing to the Niagara Falls Flyers.
Tkaczuk also made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers on January 24, 1968 vs the Boston Bruins. He had a 2 game call up to the NHL, also on January 27 vs St. Louis Blues, going scoreless in both games.
The Kitchener Rangers were sponsored by the NHL New York Rangers until 1967.
While playing in Kitchener, Tkaczuk had honed his hard nosed style of playing, while also learning strong defensive game tactics, which complemented him as a gifted scorer.
Tkaczuk started the 1968-69 season with the American Hockey League / AHL Buffalo Bisons, scoring 2 goals, 7 assists in the first 5 games of the season, when he was called up to the NHL, as Orland Kurtenbach of the Rangers had a bad back, and Tkaczuk was his replacement. He never looked back, spending the rest of his career in New York (13 seasons).
Tkaczuk scored his first NHL goal on October 20, 1968 vs Wayne Rutledge of the Los Angeles Kings, and would finish the season with 12 goals, 24 assists. Tkaczuk was a 20 goal scorer six times during his NHL career. He topped out in 1969-70, his second NHL season with 27 goals and 50 assists (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.
During his first 2 seasons with New York, the club and media pronounced his name, "Taychuk" because Rangers' Director of Player Personnel felt it was easier to say than the correct pronunciation, "Ka-Chook." Prior to the 1969-70 season, the club announced he would henceforth be called by the correct pronunciation.
Tkaczuk had decided to hold out at the start of the 1970-71 season, until he got the pay raise he felt he deserved. Even though that strained the relationship between player and boss, GM - Emile Francis didn't hold it against Tkaczuk. Francis even described Tkaczuk as "a great young Hockey player" shortly after the contract dispute was settled. He only missed 2 games to the holdout, and had another strong season with 26 goals, 49 assists (75 points).
In the 1972 NHL playoffs, with teammates Ratelle sidelined with a broken ankle and Gilbert hampered by injuries, Tkaczuk played a key role as the Rangers defeated the defending champions Montreal Canadiens, and the previous season's finalists Chicago Black Hawks, to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. While the Rangers lost to the Boston Bruins in six games, Tkaczuk earned much respect for holding the Bruins' Phil Esposito without a goal in the series. "I've never run into anyone tougher. Ever," said Esposito of Tkaczuk. "Bobby Clarke of Philadelphia gives me fits because he's so fast and persistent. Jim Harrison in Toronto was as strong as a horse but Tkaczuk had a combination of those qualities."
Tkaczuk was also asked to play for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series but declined the invitation due to his obligation to his summer Hockey school. He was replaced by Philadelphia Flyers' centre Bobby Clarke.
In 1975, Tkaczuk played in a exhibition game vs the USSR Red Army team and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Gardens.
Throughout the 1970s Tkaczuk centered the "Bulldog Line" with Bill Fairbairn and Dave Balon, becoming fan favourites in New York. In 1978-79, he was reunited with head coach Fred Shero, and Tkaczuk was a key contributor as the Rangers upset the first place New York Islanders to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, where they fell to Montreal in five games.
Tkaczuk was then named Rangers captain at the start of the 1980-81 season, but suffered an eye injury when a puck hit him in the eye on February 2, 1981, ending his career, as he never played again.
Tkaczuk played in 945 NHL regular season games, scoring 227 goals and 451 assists (678 points), and 19 goals, 32 assists in 93 NHL playoff games.
When looking at Tkaczuk’s entire NHL career, he had a plus/minus rating of 184, a Ranger record to this day.
Walt Tkaczuk has the honour of being the first player born in Germany to play a game in the National Hockey League.
Tkaczuk was ranked No. 14 on the all-time list of New York Rangers in the book 100 Ranger Greats (John Wiley & Sons).