During his teenage years, the young Tkaczuk developed sufficient skill to earn a tryout with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHA in 1963. But he was no shoe-in to make the team. There was little about the skinny forward that bore the stamp of a serious prospect. His skating was awkward, his shot was limp and his defensive play was weak. He wouldn't have earned even a serious look if it weren't for the team's coach who had an instinct that the young recruit had an upside that didn't meet the eye at first stare.
Tkaczuk hung in with the program and by his third season of OHA action, had filled out physically and mentally. He established himself as one of the team's top players on the strength of his great determination, dedication, and strong positional play.
During his final campaign with the team in 1968, he completely erased any reference to his feeble beginnings. He potted 93 points in 53 games and was selected a First-Team OHA All-Star.
In 1968-69, Tkaczuk joined the only NHL team with which he'd ever skate, the New York Rangers. He wasted little time in establishing himself as a pillar at centre ice. He quickly found a home on "The Bulldog Line" with Bill Fairbairn and Dave Balon. The trio played a strong game at both ends of the rink that helped to take pressure off of the high-scoring Ratelle-Gilbert-Hadfield line.
As for his own game, Tkaczuk became the strongest man on blades in the NHL. He never looked flashy when he skated, but he could bull his way straight through or over anyone who stood in his way. He also became an excellent face-off man and a determined team leader.
In 1972, the Chicago Cougars of the WHA attempted to entice Tkaczuk to change leagues. But his commitment to the NHL remained steadfast thanks in part to a generous three-year deal offered by the insecure Rangers.
The big centreman remained in the Big Apple for more than seasons. It wasn't until 1980-81 that he finally decided to throw in the towel as the result of a serious eye injury. He left the ice at the close of the campaign to serve as an assistant coach with the Rangers for two years.