Over their 50-year history, the Vancouver Canucks have had many players come through the doors of Rogers Arena and the Pacific Coliseum. It’s hard to remember them all, especially when they are more well-known in another jersey. In this series, we are going to look back at some former-NHLers that played for the Canucks, but do not come to mind as such when we think of their NHL careers.
Esa Tikkanen is probably best known as part of the high-flying Edmonton Oilers, but he did play for another six franchises before he retired in 1999, which included the New York Rangers, St Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, and the Canucks. Even though he played most of his career in Oil Country, he did don the Flying Skate for 100 games.
Tikkanen Becomes Part of the Canucks
For eight seasons, Tikkanen was part of the powerhouse known as the Gretzky-led Oilers. Like most of the players on that team, he was a point producer and perennial champion. In 523 games with the franchise, he posted some impressive numbers which included 178 goals, 436 points, and four Stanley Cups. He also was runner-up for the Selke Trophy twice.
His time in Edmonton came to an end in 1993 when he was traded to the Rangers for Doug Weight. That trade started a series of moves that saw him get dealt three more times in the span of only three seasons before he ended up with the Canucks in 1995. Over that time he was with the Rangers, Blues, and Devils where he only scored a total of 37 goals in 161 games. The only bright side for him was that he won another Stanley Cup, coincidentally against the same Canucks he became a part of only a season later.
Donning the Flying Skate
Tikkanen actually played for three teams during the 1995-96 season, but he was by far the most successful with the Canucks. After being acquired early in the season from the Devils for a draft pick, he was nearly a point-a-game player, posting 13 goals and 37 points in 38 games. He continued that momentum into the playoffs, where he scored three goals and five points in their eventual six-game series loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
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The following season Tikkanen slowed down a bit, finishing with 13 goals and 27 points in 62 games. He was traded back to the Rangers at the trade deadline and was a menace in the playoffs again, scoring nine goals and 12 points in 15 games.
The Rest of Tikkanen’s Career
After his second stint with the Blueshirts in 1996-97, Tikkanen left in the offseason to sign with the Panthers where he only spent half of a season before he was traded at the deadline again, this time to the Capitals. Like clockwork, he shone in the playoffs to the tune of three goals and six points during their run to the Stanley Cup Final where they lost to Detroit Red Wings in four games. He was even part of the blooper reel when he missed a wide-open net in Game 2 of that series when they were leading the game in the last 10 minutes of regulation.
Tikkanen returned to the Rangers in 1998-99 to finish his career, but was relatively unproductive, posting only three assists in 32 games. Despite the drop off in production towards the end of his career, he still finished with 244 goals and 630 points in 877 games. He remains one of the most productive Finnish players of all-time and continues to be one of the many ambassadors of Finnish hockey.
After leaving the NHL, Tikkanen spent his final two seasons in Europe playing in the SM-liiga for Jokerit Helsinki and the DEL for the Essen Mosquitoes. He ultimately retired in 2001 after a campaign that saw him score eight goals and 29 points in 46 games.
Tikkanen may have not been a prolific scorer outside of Edmonton, but he was still able to provide some offence and agitation to the Canucks for two seasons. When people look back at his career, they probably won’t see the Flying Skate, as he never really cemented a legacy in Vancouver. That’s why he will be forever remembered as one of the Canucks’ forgotten ones.
All-Time Canucks Ranks
Games Played: 100 GP (T209th)
Goals: 25 G (T117th)
Assists: 39 A (129th)
Points: 64 PTS (124th)