Matthew Tkachuk is to the NHL what Conor McGregor is to the UFC. Despite an amount of skill that most of us could only dream of, the reason people watch him is because, for the most part, they can’t stand him. For the NHL, that means viewers but it also means watching any situation that involves Tkachuk and bit more closely.
We all saw the mix-up between Tkachuk and Jake Muzzin of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. Tkachuk had allegedly fallen on Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell intentionally, late in the third period. After the final horn sounded, Muzzin responded by flipping the puck at Tkachuk’s chest, which provoked some rough stuff. This is by no means out-of-the-ordinary for Tkachuk, as we see this virtually every night from him. And we love it.
Standing at 6’2” and 202lbs, the 23-year-old is like a combination of Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. He’s pesky enough to stir up trouble, and capable of bringing down the hammer when it’s time to fight. He’ll be selective in who he throws down with and he’s certainly not a heavyweight, but he gets in the mix as often as he turtles.
In addition to his grit, he also contributes offensively in a major way. He has 239 points in the 298 games he’s played so far in his career. He’s the absolute coach’s dream, and fans love to watch him.
Is Tkachuk Trouble or Harmless Fun?
We talk a lot about players having rivalries with other players in the NHL: Ryan Reaves vs. Tom Wilson; Sean Avery vs. Martin Brodeur; Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin. But Matthew Tkachuk seems to have beef with every tough guy in the league. At that point, is it even a rivalry anymore? He’s an equal opportunistic pest.
Contributing to Tkachuk’s success is the advice that his former NHL Superstar father, Keith, always gave to Matthew and his brother, Brady: “Compete and be a good teammate.” Both Matthew and Brady exemplify that in their games. When a teammate receives a cheap shot, the Tkachuks are always the first ones to pursue the culprit. That’s just how they were raised.
Matthew has been suspended three times, but never for what you’d call “Dangerous” plays. Sure, he missed two games for catching Drew Doughty up high with an elbow, but the other two suspensions were merely for stirring the pot, which got him unsportsmanlike suspensions. The NHL Department of Player Safety doesn’t have to worry about Tkachuk ending someone’s career.
The NHL should wish they had more players like Matthew Tkachuk. Yes, he might make the Referees’ jobs harder every night, but that’s why people love hockey: It’s rough! Especially in a year where revenue is low, the League should be doing everything in its power to promote guys like Tkachuk, who make people want to watch the game.
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