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Phoenix to honor Keith Tkachuk tonight

Dec 23, 2011, 2:15 PM EDT

tkachuk coyotes

December has been a pretty good month for Keith Tkachuk.

Two weeks ago, he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Tonight, he’ll enter the Phoenix Coyotes Ring of Honor prior to the start of the Coyotes-Blues game.

“It’s been an incredible couple of weeks,” Tkachuk told “It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Arizona, and the memories just come flooding back. Great teams. Great teammates and friends. Great fans. It was a great time in my life.”

Tkachuk played a key role of putting the Coyotes on the map in Arizona — he still scoffs at the notion that Phoenix isn’t a hockey town — though the rest of his “Massachusetts Mafia” cohorts played a part. In their first season in Phoenix, Boston natives Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Bob Corkum and Craig Janney had a great time on the ice (Tkachuk and Roenick combined for 81 goals) and an even better time off it:

[It was a ] pack of young Coyotes who enjoyed playing horrible golf, smoking fine cigars and partaking in nearby Scottsdale’s vibrant nightlife.

They also enjoyed taking their act on the road and wouldn’t let a silly thing like coach Jim Schoenfeld’s curfew get in the way. Roenick remembered one December road trip to Florida in 1997 where a tired crew needed their captain to bail them out.

“We had a game the next night but that didn’t stop Keith, Bobby Corkum, C.J. and I from sneaking out to hit South Beach.” he said. “We finally crawled in about 4 a.m. and we were all in pretty rough shape. I felt like I was skating in the sand. I couldn’t move, and the rest of our gang was a mess too.

“But Walt (Tkachuk) was everywhere. He had a hat trick and we won 3-2. He won the game himself.”

After the game, Tkachuk sauntered onto the team bus, went past Schoenfeld with a big smile, and after walking down the aisle singing his trademark song after a road win, “Closing Time” by Semisonic, he announced. “OK boys, I did my part. The rest of the road trip is up to you.”

If that anecdote doesn’t highlight Tkachuk’s intestinal fortitude, this piece from the Globe and Mail does. Entitled “A sport with teeth”, it talks about what Tkachuk calls “by far the worst injury” he’s ever had — a puck to the face that shattered his upper jaw.

The puck hit Keith Tkachuk just below his nose, shattering his upper jaw and crushing the bone so badly, four teeth simply dropped out of his mouth.

Tkachuk’s surgery this week involved a transplant of bone from his hip to restore his upper jaw. If that process is successful, false teeth will be implanted when the area is healed.

“You just don’t realize,” Tkachuk said. “It’s by far the worst injury I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

He sat out only three games, returning to the ice after 10 days with six front teeth missing.

Tough dude. No wonder the Coyotes are putting him in the Ring of Honor.

  1. govtminion - Dec 23, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    One of my favorite hockey players when I was a teenager- he’s everything you could want in an NHLer. Tough as nails, talented with the puck, great at both ends of the ice, not afraid to go in the corners, willing to drop the gloves… thank you to Tkachuk for years of letting us watch you in action!

    (I wish you’d have played for the Bruins!)

  2. greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 24, 2011 at 1:33 AM

    Those original Coyote jerseys are hideous!

  3. bigbear42 - Dec 24, 2011 at 2:46 AM

    Is Gretzky seriously in their ring of honor? If he is, thats a disgrace

  4. Jeff - Dec 24, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    Nice ceremony last night. I’m glad he defended Phoenix by saying its’s a great hockey market.
    Agree that the original Yotes jerseys were ugly. I love the howling coyote ones, but the full-body ones now aren’t much better than the originals.

  5. pavelfitzgerald - Dec 24, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Tkachuk was a beaut!! We loved him in Winnipeg & it’s easy to see why he was soo loved in Phoenix. For 10 years after the Jets left he still flew into town every summer on his own dime to run the “Keith Tkachuk Children’s Hospital Golf Classic” that raised thousands of dollars for the local Children’s hospital. As great of a hockey player he was, he was an even greater person.

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