Tony Tanti started his hockey career as a goal scoring superstar with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. In his rookie season (1980-81) he scored 81 goals to break the OHL record for goals in a season set by none other than Wayne Gretzky. Tanti followed that up with 62 goals in 57 games the next season. In 154 career OHL games, Tanti had scored 177 goals and 338 points! Despite his small size size and some small but nagging injury problems, Tanti had NHL scouts drooling all over him. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted him 12th overall in the 1981 Entry Draft.
The Hawks however were impatient with the budding star. He only played 3 professional games before they traded him away to Vancouver in exchange for veteran rugged winger Curt Fraser. The trade turned out to be one of the best trade in Canucks history. Though Fraser was a fine player he was nearing the end of his career. Tanti however was just embarking upon a fine journey.
Tanti set a Vancouver Canucks team record in his first full season with the Canucks, his second in the NHL. He scored 45 goals bettering Darcy Rota's previous record of 42. Tanti became a fan favorite in Vancouver, a team not accustomed to having a fine goal scorer. And Tanti became their first true sniper in franchise history. He scored 39 goals after his 45 goal campaign, followed by 39, 41 and 40 goal seasons.
Tanti was the master of the tip-in and scored many of his goals on the power play. In those 5 consecutive seasons of scoring 39 goals or more, Tanti scored 19, 14, 17, 15 and 20 power play goals, respectively.
Despite Tanti's fine scoring exploits, the Canucks were consistent cellar dwellers, often missing the playoffs. One would have to wonder what heights Tanti could have achieved with a stronger team such as Edmonton or Calgary, or even if he stayed in Chicago where he would have played with names like Denis Savard and Doug Wilson.
1988-89 was a bad year for Tanti. He slipped to only 24 goals and 49 points. It was considered to be an off season but when he only scored 14 in his first 41 games in 1989-90, the Canucks decided to trade the slumping gunner to Pittsburgh. He scored another 14 goals in the second half with the Pens, for 28 goals.
Tanti's dry spell hit a new low in 1990-91 when he scored just 6 goals and 18 points in 46 games with the Pens. Often playing behind Rob Brown and Mark Recchi, and simply wasn't the type of player to fill the third line role as he wasn't great defensively nor a physical presence. He ended up being traded to Buffalo at the trading deadline.
Tanti finished out his NHL career by playing one season with the Sabres before heading across the Atlantic where he played for 6 more seasons in Germany.
Tanti scored 287 goals in 697 regular season games. He played on many bad teams that rarely saw playoff action, but when he did participate in post season games he was unable to duplicate his regular season theatrics. He had only 3 goals in 30 playoff games. Had he been able to score in the post season like he could in the regular season, or more importantly play on a team that made that playoffs with some regularity, Tanti would have been a bigger name player in the NHL.