It’s been a busy few weeks for Keith Tkachuk. .Tkachuk was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame on December 12th, cementing his position as one of the most dominant American NHLers in history. In 19 years, he scored 538 goals and 1065 points – 208 of them with the St. Louis Blues. He made a huge impact during his time in St. Louis, ranking 5th all time in goals scored and leading the young Blues team to the playoffs for the first time since the lockout in 2009.
Despite the fact that he spent most of his career with the Blues, Tkachuk’s early career was spent with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, where tonight his number will be retired and added to the Ring of Honor. Other inductees include Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen (father of current Blues forward Alex Steen), Teppo Numminen, and Wayne Gretzky. Former linemate Jeremy Roenick will be joining Tkachuk later in the season.
Tkachuk was a brilliant force as captain of the Coyotes, setting some high marks: 323 goals (second in franchise scoring behind Hawerchuk) and back to back 50 goal seasons are just a tip of the iceberg of what Tkachuk meant to the franchise. He led by example, and loved playing in Phoenix, telling NHL.com correspondent Jerry Brown during an interview:
“We played to packed houses a lot of the time, and those who say hockey doesn’t work in Phoenix should go back and look at where it was at that time … The thing that makes me most happy is seeing the Arizona kids who picked up the game watching the Coyotes now grown up and getting drafted by the NHL or earning Division I scholarships. I’m proud of the impact we had on those kids.”
The Phoenix Coyotes are fantastic about honoring and respecting their history as the Winnipeg Jets. Other than current captain Shane Doan, no player exemplifies a bridge between the two teams than Big Walt.
For more on what Tkachuk means to Coyote fans, please check out Carl Putnam’s post on Five for Howling, which is an outstanding look back at Tkachuk, the franchise, and the fans.