Saturday, November 12, 2011
After beginning his career with HIFK in Finland, the human sandpaper that was Esa Tikkanen brought his abrasive style to the Edmonton Oilers in 1985, who were in the midst of their Stanley Cup dynasty. Tikkanen actually joined the Oilers for the first time during the Stanley Cup Finals once he was finished playing for Finland at the World Championships. He appeared in three games of the finals as the Oilers were defeating the Philadelphia Flyers, which was enough to earn Tikkanen his name on the Stanley Cup before he had ever played a regular season game in the NHL!
The following season Tikkanen was limited to 35 games with the Oilers because of a broken foot but saw time in 8 of the Oilers 10 playoff games as they were eliminated in the second round.
He was teamed on a line with Wayne Gretzky and fellow Finn Jari Kurri beginning with the 1986-87 season as the defensive member of the trio, which suited his tenacious, gritty style of play and complimented the offensive skills of his linemates perfectly. The results were immediate, as Gretzky and Kurri finished 1-2 in league scoring while Tikkanen was set up for 34 goals and credited with 44 assists for 78 points in the process while his 120 penalty minutes spoke to his feisty style of play. The season concluded with the Oilers once again regaining their grip on the Stanley Cup.
1987-88 saw Tikkanen, now known for his "Tikkanese" brand of Finnish-English hybrid language which not even fellow Finn Kurri could understand, much less the opponents Tikkanen was chirping at, repeated his offensive contributions with 74 points, but really stepped up in the playoffs with 10 goals and 27 points in 19 games as the Oilers won the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in five seasons.
During the 1988-89 season, Tikkanen set an NHL record on this date in 1988, when he scored two shorthanded goals in a span of just 12 seconds on his way to a hat trick. His pair of shorthanded goals in 12 seconds broke the previous record of 25 second held by another Oiler, Pat Hughes since 1983. Tikkanen was named NHL Player of the Week for his efforts. After missing five weeks time due to a broken left wrist, he began a point scoring streak on his first game back which stretched 13 games and proved to be the Oilers longest of the season. Despite the time missed, Tikkanen equalled his career best with 78 points despite Gretzky's departure to Los Angeles before the season. Tikkanen led the Oilers that season with eight shorthanded goals and was a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward.
Tikkanen recorded his third 30 goal season in 1989-90 as the Oilers regrouped behind the leadership of Mark Messier and won their fifth Stanley Cup, Tikkanen's fourth in six seasons, thanks in part to his 13 goals and 24 points in 22 games, good for fourth on the team. He was again a Selke finalist at the conclusion of the season.
Something quite remarkable happened in the 1990-91 season when Tikkanen led the Oilers in scoring, and with a mere 69 points, the first time anyone had ever led the Oilers in scoring with less than 100 points as the once dominant Oilers came back to the pack with a 37-37-6 record. Tikkanen was the runner-up for the Selke Trophy at season's end.
He missed half of the 1991-92 season, mainly due to a fractured shoulder which kept him out of action for three and a half months. For the 1992-93 season, Tikkanen played in 66 games with the Oilers, scoring 33 points in 66 games, he was traded to the New York Rangers for Doug Weight, bringing to an end the Oilers era of his career, which would continue for another nine seasons with a multitude of clubs, as he would never enjoy the kind of stability he had in Edmonton again.
Today's featured jersey is a 1988-89 Edmonton Oilers Esa Tikkanen jersey from the season Tikkanen set the NHL record for the two fastest shorthanded goals in league history.
This jersey features the Oilers 10th Anniversary patch, commemorating their time in only the NHL, as the club was actually founded in 1972, some 17 seasons earlier.
Today's video shows Tikkanen as his abrasive, trash-talking best and includes footage of him earning his reputation as one of the most disliked players in the league.
In this next clip, Tikkanen scores in overtime of Game 7 to eliminate the Calgary Flames from the 1991 playoffs during the height of the Battle of Alberta.