Published on:

23rd Feb 2024

Special Edition : A Conversation with “Big Walt” Keith Tkachuk

Neil Smith and Vic Morren, welcomes Keith Tkachuk, a former NHL player and father of current players Matthew and Brady Tkachuk. This Special Edition discusses the Florida Panthers' successful season, their physical and fast-paced playing style, and their strong team chemistry. Keith shares his thoughts on why the Panthers are performing well and credits their general manager, Bill Zito, for building a competitive team.

The conversation also touches on Matthew Tkachuk's trade to the Panthers and his impact on the team. Keith talks about the challenges his son Brady faces as a young captain in Ottawa and the turmoil within the Senators organization. He offers advice based on his own experiences, emphasizing the importance of focusing on what can be controlled on the ice.

Keith reflects on his own career, including his time with the Winnipeg Jets and the transition to the Phoenix Coyotes. He expresses his hope for the Coyotes' future in Arizona and shares his thoughts on the viability of the franchise in the state.


  • [01:16] How Keith got his name “Walt”
  • [01:48] Keith Tkchuk talks about the Florida Panthers' successful season, their physical and fast-paced playing style, and their strong team chemistry 
  • [05:24] Physical Play and Team Identity 
  • [06:57] Matthew Tkachuk's Trade 
  • [08:30] Insights on his son  Brady Tkachuk's  role as a young captain in the NHL and the difficulties he faces
  • [11:06] Challenges faced by the Ottawa Senators and the need for the team to mature
  • [15:36] Arizona Coyotes' Viability
  • [17:30] Final Days of Winnipeg Jets 



  • Matthew Tkachuk was traded to the Florida Panthers, and according to Keith Tkachuk, Matthew played a role in dictating the trade. Matthew believed that joining the Panthers, with a core of players around his age, provided the best opportunity for success. The trade was influenced by Matthew's desire to play alongside players like Barkov, Reinhardt, Bennett, and others.
  • The Florida Panthers had a remarkable playoff run the previous season, eliminating strong teams like Boston and Toronto. Keith Tkachuk attributes the team's success to their identity, playing a heavy, fast style that involves physical play. He mentions that the team's mentality and unity contribute to their winning streak and current standing at the top of the Eastern Conference.
  • Keith Tkachuk discusses the challenges faced by his other son, Brady Tkachuk, who plays for the Ottawa Senators. The team has undergone significant changes, including new ownership, management, and coaching staff. Brady, as a young captain, has faced adversity, but Keith emphasizes the importance of focusing on what can be controlled on the ice and learning from the experience.
  • Keith Tkachuk expresses his optimism about the viability of the Arizona Coyotes as a franchise. He acknowledges the challenges faced by the team, including issues related to the arena and ownership. However, he believes that with the right plan, commitment, and a new arena in the right location, the franchise could succeed. He suggests that Gary Bettman's involvement indicates that there may be a plan in place for the team's future.


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Keith Tkachuk, a left winger, grew up in Malden, Massachusetts, playing in high school for Malden Catholic, before playing one year of college hockey at Boston University. Tkachuk played for the US at the World Junior Championships in 1991, his first of many international appearances for the US, including the 1992 World Juniors, the 1997 and 2005 World Cups, and four Winter Olympics – 1992, 1998, 2002, and 2006. Tkachuk was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the 1990 NHL draft, and has played in the NHL since 1990. He started out with the Jets, and also played for several years with the St. Louis Blues, and Phoenix Coyotes, with one brief stint with the Atlanta Thrashers. Tkachuk has played in five NHL All-Star Games, and in 1995 and 1998, was named to the NHL All-Star second team. He led the NHL with 52 goals in the 1996-97 season, and also had 50 goals in 1995-96. In 2008 he became only the fourth American-born NHL player to tally 500 goals, and in November 2008, became the sixth US-born player to score 1,000 points.

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About the Podcast

NHL Wraparound Podcast
Neil Smith & Vic Morren
Breadth and depth.
Contemporary and historical.
Straight-forward and experienced.
The NHL Wraparound podcast features Neil Smith, President-General Manager of the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers and longtime ESPN/NHL veteran Vic Morren sharing no-nonsense opinions on news and issues around the National Hockey League.

Bringing decades of experience from their respective fields, Smith and Morren create a unique partnership that examines the NHL from multiple perspectives. Additionally, as hockey historians, the pair can delve into any topic in today’s game and enlighten the audience with connections to events from previous years. To truly appreciate where hockey stands today, one needs to understand its past.

With 2024 marking the 30th anniversary of the Rangers last championship season, a special five-part series is planned to commemorate that magical run. Expect fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and special guests with particular focus on the GM who pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table amidst the most pressurized environments – and came out on top.

Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned fan, each episode of NHL Wraparound will leave you entertained and informed.

Neil S. Smith, highly regarded NHL executive, served as the President and General Manager of the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers. During his eleven years with the team, they achieved significant success, including three division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, one Eastern Conference Championship, and a historic Stanley Cup victory—the franchise’s first in 54 years.

Known for his expertise in professional sports franchise economics, Smith played a pivotal role in management decisions under four different Rangers owners.. His tenure saw iconic trades and acquisitions, including Hall of Famers Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, as well as successful drafts and free-agent signings.

Starting as a pro scout, Smith's career highlights include the impactful 1989 draft for the Detroit Red Wings and bold trades that shaped NHL history. He briefly served as GM for the New York Islanders in 2006, later working as a consultant for the Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

A Toronto native, Smith's hockey journey began in junior leagues before a distinguished college career at Western Michigan University. He has received numerous awards and distinctions, including induction into the University's Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

Vic Morren: Born in New York City close to the Old Madison Square Garden, Vic Morren has had hockey in his blood his entire life as a fan, player and television production manager.

A graduate of William Paterson University, Morren skated for three seasons with the Pioneers hockey club and became the first statistical analyst to apply his craft to telecasts working New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils games from 1984-87. He co-authored two NHL-based statistics books within that span before moving to ESPN in 1987 and working the final season of the original deal the network had with the NHL.
After departing in 1990, Morren worked as a studio producer for SportsChannel America’s NHL coverage and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics before returning to ESPN that fall where he worked all 12 seasons on the second ESPN/NHL deal and the first season of the most recent contract in 2021-22. Morren has also earned a Sports Emmy for his work on Sunday Night Football coverage in 2003.

His relationship with Neil Smith dates back 33 years through their mutual friendship with the late ESPN/ABC commentator John Saunders. Morren looks forward to NHL Wraparound and collaborating with Smith with the goal to provide an experience of contemporary viewpoints, historical spin and an overall enriching podcast experience.