During the Penguins’ early years the Civic Arena faithful didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about. One of the few bright spots on an otherwise unimposing team was right wing Ken Schinkel. An old-school player who paid his dues during the “Original Six” era, Schinkel was a remarkably consistent performer over the team’s first six seasons.
The Jansen, Saskatchewan, native served a long apprenticeship in the American Hockey League, toiling for Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians. After leading the AHL with 43 goals in 1958-59, Schinkel was acquired by the New York Rangers. The following season he scored 13 goals as a 27-year-old rookie. By the mid-1960s, however, the Rangers had begun a youth movement. Although he’d established himself as a solid checker and penalty killer, Schinkel was shipped back to the minors.
Recast in an offensive role, the veteran forward soon rediscovered his scoring touch. Skating for the Baltimore Clippers in the AHL, he averaged a point per game over the next four seasons.
When the NHL expanded to a dozen teams in 1967, it afforded many old pros a new lease on life. Although Schinkel was 35 years old—ancient even by expansion-team standards—Penguins general manager Jack Riley remembered the productive winger from his days as an AHL executive. On June 6, 1967, he plucked the 5’10” 172-pounder from the Rangers in the Expansion Draft.
In hindsight, “Schink” seemed destined to play for Pittsburgh. Thanks to his flattop haircut he bore an uncanny resemblance to Steel City football legend Johnny Unitas.
He made an immediate impression on the ice, too. In the team’s sixth game, coach Red Sullivan assigned him the daunting task of shadowing Chicago great Bobby Hull. The crafty veteran responded with a hat trick to pace a 4-2 Penguins’ victory.
“That’s probably one of my highlights of being here was scoring that hat trick,” Schinkel recalled in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Having played against him and ending up with a hat trick, that to me was a really a great accomplishment. I was supposed to be a defensive type player and ended up getting a hat trick checking Hull.”
Following a solid first season, Schinkel emerged as one of the Penguins’ top players. In 1968-69 he led the club in scoring (52 points) and was named to the West Division All-Star Team. The following season he notched a career-high 20 goals. On April 11, 1970, Schinkel exploded for the first hat trick in Penguins playoff history to spark a 5-2 victory over Oakland. Impressed with the popular winger’s team-first attitude, coach Red Kelly made him an assistant captain.
Over the next two seasons Schinkel continued to perform at a high level, averaging 40 points per year despite missing 32 games due to injury. Skating on the tongue-twisting “Schink-Schock-Shack” line, he helped spark the blue and white to their second playoff berth in 1971-72. Always a clutch postseason performer, he struck for two goals during Game 4 of the Pens’ opening-round series against the Black Hawks.
Remarkably, the 40-year-old opened the 1972-73 campaign by scoring at his customary pace. At the behest of Riley, he hung up his skates in January of 1973 to assume the coaching duties. Schinkel retired as the Pens’ all-time leading scorer—a distinction he held until Jean Pronovost surpassed him the following year.