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Born January 25, 1965 (1965-01-25) (age 44),
Helsinki, FIN
6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
209 lb (95 kg; 14 st 13 lb)
Position Forward
Shot Left
Pro clubs Edmonton Oilers (19851993)
New York Rangers (19931994)
St. Louis Blues (19941995)
New Jersey Devils (1995)
Vancouver Canucks (19951997)
New York Rangers (1997)
Florida Panthers (1997–1998)
Washington Capitals (1998)
New York Rangers (1998–1999)
Ntl. team  Finland
NHL Draft 80th overall, 1983
Edmonton Oilers
Career 1983 – 2001
2004 – 2005

Esa Tikkanen (born January 25, 1965 in Helsinki, Finland) is a retired Finnish professional ice hockey forward. He played for the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, and the Washington Capitals in the National Hockey League and won five Stanley Cups in 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990 with the Oilers, and 1994 with the Rangers.


Background and early career

Esa Tikkanen began his career in hockey as a little boy by being a mascot for the Jokerit team and playing for the Jokerit junior team. After spending a year in Canada in 1981–82 with the Regina Blues of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, Tikkanen returned to Finland only to find out he had no place at Jokerit. He then signed with HJK, and soon afterwards Jokerit's local rivals, HIFK. Tikkanen was drafted in the fourth round (80th overall) by the Oilers in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. In 1984–85, he played 36 games for HIFK in the Finnish SM-liiga before joining the Oilers for their 1985 playoff run. He played briefly in the American Hockey League for the Oilers' affiliate the Nova Scotia Oilers in 1985–86, before joining the team full time.

NHL playing career


Start in Edmonton

Tikkanen made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers during the 1985 Stanley Cup Finals. He soon became an important part of the Oilers, playing on the team's first line with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Kurri and Gretzky's roles were to score goals; Tikkanen was the line's defensive player. Oilers coach and general manager Glen Sather once suggested that Tikkanen should be awarded the Frank J. Selke trophy (the award for the best defensive forward in the NHL). He was finalist several times in his career, but never won the award. Tikkanen excelled at distracting and confusing opponents with his Tiki-Talk. Between 1986 and 1990, Tikkanen scored 30 or more goals three times and was on three more Cup champions.

Time after Oilers

In March 1993, Tikkanen was traded to the New York Rangers for Doug Weight, and he was part of that team's 1994 Stanley Cup victory, scoring 22 goals and 54 points in 83 regular-season games. In July 1994, Tikkanen was traded with Doug Lidster to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Petr Nedvěd.

The start of the NHL's 1994-95 season was delayed by a lockout, during which Tikkanen played in Finland for HIFK Helsinki. After the lockout Tikkanen, played with the Blues during the shortened 1995 season, and appeared in 11 games in 1995-96 before a trade sent him to the New Jersey Devils. Three weeks later he was again dealt, this time to the Vancouver Canucks.

The 1996–97 season saw him involved in yet another midseason trade, back to the Rangers, in March. Although he contributed only one goal in 14 regular-season games with New York, he came alive in the playoffs, scoring 9 times in 15 games. Of the Rangers, only Gretzky, with 10, outscored Tikkanen. The Rangers eliminated the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils before falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals.

The 32-year-old Tikkanen became a free agent in the summer of 1997, and he signed with the Panthers, but this would also prove to be a short stay. By March 1998 he had appeared in only 28 games, and Florida traded him to the Washington Capitals for Dwayne Hay. He appeared in all 21 of Washington's playoff games, as the Capitals went to the Stanley Cup finals, where they were swept in four straight games by the Detroit Red Wings. Tikkanen is remembered for missing a wide-open shot on goal that would have iced Game 2. Many thought this was the turning point of the Series. This was to be Tikkanen's last full season in the NHL. After becoming a free agent, he signed for a third tour with the Rangers. However, he was injured during the 1998–99 season, and did not return.

Before the start of the 1999–2000 season, Tikkanen attended the Edmonton Oilers' training camp and was offered a role of playing coach. Tikkanen declined the offer and returned to Finland, where he played with Jokerit. In 877 NHL games, he had scored 244 goals and 386 assists for 630 points, while racking up 1,077 minutes in penalties. In 186 Stanley Cup playoff games, he scored 72 goals and 60 assists for 132 points, with 275 penalty minutes.

Post NHL career

In 1999–2000, Tikkanen played with Jokerit, a rival team of HIFK, with whom Tikkanen had played earlier in his career. Jokerit finished in second place in the SM-Liiga. In 2000–01, Tikkanen moved to Germany, where he played for Moskitos Essen of the Deutsche Eishockey LigaDEL. He retired in 2001.

During the 2004–05 season, Tikkanen resurfaced again, this time as a player-coach for the Anyang Halla, a South Korean team in the Asia League Ice Hockey.[1] Though he predicted that he and his two linemates would finish 1-2-3 in scoring[2], he finished tied for fourth on his team, with 8 goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 30 games. He was 29th in the league in assists, and didn't crack the top 30 in goals or points. He did, however, lead Halla in penalty minutes with 58 (tied for 28th in the league). Halla finished fifth in the league and did not make the playoffs.

After one season in Korea, Tikkanen became the coach for the Frisk Tigers of the Norwegian League. Tikkanen was head coach for one season.

International play

Medal record
Competitor for Finland Finland
Men's ice hockey
Olympic Games
Bronze 1998 Nagano Ice hockey
World Championships
Bronze 2000 Russia Ice hockey
World Junior Championships
Silver 1984 Sweden Ice hockey

Esa Tikkanen played 81 games for Finnish National team.

Tikkanen participated in two Canada Cups, 5 World Championship tournaments and the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Notable achievements

Tikkanen won 4 Stanley Cups with the Oilers and another with the Rangers. His various acquisitions were by teams craving him for his playoff experience and success: in 877 regular season games he scored 244 goals, but in 186 playoff games he scored 72 goals. "Tik" was known for his ability to score clutch goals, but also for his general style of play—chippy and aggressive. He was nicknamed "The Grate One" (a pun on teammate Gretzky's moniker "The Great One") for his ability to irritate opposing players, often just by talking to them in his Finnish-English "Tikkanese" or "Tiki-Talk." His regular-season totals were 244 goals, 386 assists, and 1077 penalty minutes. In the playoffs he added 72 goals, 60 assists, and 275 penalty minutes. In September 2001, Jokerit retired his number, #5.Tikkanen also lead Edmonton Oilers in 1990-91 regular season with 69.

In the book 100 Ranger Greats (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) by Russ Cohen, John Halligan, and Adam Raider, the authors ranked Tikkanen No. 85 on the all-time list of New York Rangers.


Tikkanen is famous for his Finnish-English, sometimes referred to as "Tikkanese" or "Tiki-Talk." Even members of his team often did not understand what he was saying. Wayne Gretzky once commented, "He brings something special. I don't know what it is, but if you ask him, you couldn't understand his answer." Former Edmonton Oiler coach and teammate Craig MacTavish said, "Esa talks twice as much as anybody else. That's because you can understand just half what he says."

Even fellow Finn Jari Kurri was not immune from the confusing language. During their tenure with the Oilers, Tikkanen let go with a particularly colorful pronouncement, after which another player turned to Kurri and asked, "What did he just say?" Kurri simply shook his head; "I have no idea."[1]

Awards and achievements

  • 1984–85NHLStanley Cup (Edmonton)
  • 1986–87 – NHL – Stanley Cup (Edmonton)
  • 1987–88 – NHL – Stanley Cup (Edmonton)
  • 1989–90 – NHL – Stanley Cup (Edmonton)
  • 1993-94 – NHL – Stanley Cup (New York)
  • Matti Keinonen trophy for best plus/minus in the SM-liiga – 1985
  • Tikkanen's number was controversially retired by Jokerit after the end of his career. The controversy stems from the fact that despite Tikkanen's extensive background in Jokerit juniors he only ever spent one season, his last in Finland, playing for Jokerit in the SM-liiga in comparison with two and a half seasons at Jokerit's local rivals HIFK. The number retired was 5, although Tikkanen used number 10 during the most of his NHL career.

Tikkanen, the racehorse

The 1994 Breeders' Cup Turf was won by Tikkanen, a Thoroughbred racehorse named in Esa Tikkanen's honor by George W. Strawbridge, Jr., owner of Augustin Stable and an active director of the Buffalo Sabres NHL ice hockey club and a member of the team's executive committee for more than thirty years. [3] [4]


Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1982–83 HIFK SM-liiga 1 0 0 0 2
1983–84 HIFK SM-liiga 36 19 11 30 30 2 0 0 0 0
1983–84 Olympic Team SM-liiga 1 0 0 0 0
1984–85 HIFK SM-liiga 36 21 33 54 42
1984–85 Edmonton Oilers NHL 3 0 0 0 2
1985–86 Edmonton Oilers NHL 35 7 6 13 28 8 3 2 5 7
1986–87 Edmonton Oilers NHL 76 34 44 78 120 21 7 2 9 22
1987–88 Edmonton Oilers NHL 80 23 51 74 153 19 10 17 27 72
1988–89 Edmonton Oilers NHL 67 31 47 78 92 7 1 3 4 12
1989–90 Edmonton Oilers NHL 79 30 33 63 161 22 13 11 24 26
1990–91 Edmonton Oilers NHL 79 27 42 69 85 18 12 8 20 24
1991–92 Edmonton Oilers NHL 40 12 16 28 44 16 5 3 8 8
1992–93 Edmonton Oilers NHL 66 14 19 33 76
1992–93 New York Rangers NHL 15 2 5 7 18
1993–94 New York Rangers NHL 83 22 32 54 114 23 4 4 8 34
1994–95 HIFK SM-liiga 19 2 11 13 16
1994–95 St. Louis Blues NHL 43 12 23 35 22 7 2 2 4 20
1995–96 St. Louis Blues NHL 11 1 4 5 18
1995–96 New Jersey Devils NHL 9 0 2 2 4
1995–96 Vancouver Canucks NHL 38 13 24 37 14 6 3 2 5 2
1996–97 Vancouver Canucks NHL 62 12 15 27 66
1996–97 New York Rangers NHL 14 1 2 3 6 15 9 3 12 26
1997–98 Florida Panthers NHL 28 1 8 9 16
1997–98 Washington Capitals NHL 20 2 10 12 2 21 3 3 6 20
1998–99 New York Rangers NHL 32 0 3 3 38
1999–00 Jokerit SM-Liiga 43 10 13 23 85 11 1 6 7 10
2000–01 Moskitos Essen DEL 46 8 21 29 81
2004–05 Anyang Halla Winia AL 30 8 17 25 58
NHL totals 877 244 386 630 1077 186 72 60 132 275
SM-Liiga totals 135 52 69 121 173 14 1 6 7 12
DEL totals 46 8 21 29 81


External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Arto Sirviö
Winner of the Matti Keinonen trophy
Succeeded by
Harry Nikander
Preceded by
Saku Koivu
Winner of the President's trophy
Succeeded by
Raimo Helminen


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