Darcy Tucker: Long-time Toronto Maple Leafs Fan Favourite

If you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs or hockey in general, chances are you’ve heard of Darcy Tucker. Despite standing at a modest 5’10 and weighing 183 pounds during his playing days, Darcy Tucker played a big man’s game.  Throughout his 14 seasons in the NHL, Darcy played with a mean streak. He loved to play physical and wasn’t afraid to give his opponents an extra shot or two. As well as his physicality, Darcy Tucker was also a very skilled player, attributing 5 seasons throughout his NHL career where he scored 20 or more goals. Darcy Tucker was born on March 15th, 1975 in Castor, Alberta, and was raised 50 kilometers away in Endiang, Alberta.  A minor hockey star growing up, Tucker was passed over in the WHL Draft despite scoring 70 goals and 160 points in only 47 games with the Midget AAA Red Deer Chiefs.  Despite being passed over in the WHL Draft, Tucker would still make the Kamloops Blazers as a 16 year old, during which he played in 26 games, scoring 3 goals and 13 points.  Tucker would also appear in 9 playoff games during the Blazers playoff run which ultimately saw them win the 1992 Memorial Cup in Seattle.  In the 1992/93 season, Darcy Tucker’s 2nd with Kamloops, he’d score 31 goals, 89 points while racking up 155 penalty minutes in 67 games.Tucker would also add 13 points in 13 playoffs game while picking up an additional 34 penalty minutes. Darcy Tucker’s breakout season in the WHL led to him being drafted in the 6th round, 151st overall by the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 NHL Draft.  Out of the 150 players drafted ahead of Tucker in the 1993 draft, only 12 of those players have played in more NHL games than Tucker throughout their careers.  Following the draft, Tucker returned to Kamloops for the 1993/94 season and exploded offensively, scoring 52 goals and totaling 140 points in 66 games.  Tucker’s strong play continued into the 1994 playoffs, adding 9 goals and 27 points in 19 games.  Darcy Tucker would help the Blazers advance to the 1994 Memorial Cup in Laval, Quebec, during which Kamloops would win their 2nd Memorial Cup in 3 years.  Darcy Tucker’s prolific junior career would continue in the 1994/95 season.  He’d score 64 goals, 137 points in 64 games throughout the season.  He’d also be a member of Team Canada at the 1995 World Junior Hockey Championships in Red Deer, Alberta.  Darcy Tucker accumulated 4 assists in 7 games, helping Canada to a perfect 7-0 record en-route to a Gold Medal.  For the second straight year, Kamloops would play in the Memorial Cup tournament, winning their 2nd consecutive tournament, this time on home ice in Kamloops.  In the 1995 WHL playoffs, Tucker would score 16 goals, and 31 points in 21 games.  Darcy Tucker, along with Tyson Nash and Ryan Huska, are the only 3 players to play on all 3 Kamloops Blazers Memorial Cup winning teams (1992, 1994, 1995).

The following 1995/96 season marked Darcy Tucker’s first season as a pro.  He’d spend the majority of the season with the Fredericton Canadiens of the AHL, notching 29 goals and 93 points in 74 games, while adding 7 goals and 10 points in 7 playoffs games.  Tucker’s success in his first season as a professional earned him the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the top rookie in the AHL.  Tucker also made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens that season, appearing in 3 regular season games. The 1995/96 season in Fredericton would be the only time in his career that Darcy Tucker would play in minors, as he’d make the Montreal Canadiens full-time in the 1996/97 season and remain an everyday NHLer for the remainder of his playing days. In Tucker’s rookie NHL season, he’d score 7 goals, 20 points in 73 games for the Canadiens.  After playing his first 39 games of the 1997/98 season with Montreal, Darcy Tucker would be traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with Stephane Richer and David Wilkie for Patrick Poulin, Igor Ulanov and Mick Vukota. After starting the season slow with the Canadiens, Tucker would finish the season strong with the Lightning, netting 14 points in his final 35 games.  The following season would be Darcy Tucker’s breakout year in the NHL.  As an alternate captain for the Lightning, he’d score 21 goals and 43 points while appearing in all 82 games.  The 1998/99 season would be 1 of 2 seasons of Tucker’s career during which he’d appear in all 82 games.  Darcy Tucker would play the first 52 games for the Lightning in the 1999/00 season before being dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Marek Posmyk and Mike Johnson on February 9th, 2000.  Tucker’s gritty play while being able to put the puck in the net instantly made him one of the most popular Toronto Maple Leafs players.  Darcy Tucker’s 6 points in 12 playoff games helped the Maple Leafs to the second round of the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs, where they would ultimately lose in 6 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the New Jersey Devils.

Tucker High ResThe 2000/01 campaign would mark Darcy Tucker’s first full season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  He’d appear in all 82 games, notching 16 goals, 37 points and 141 penalty minutes in the process.  In the 2001 Stanley Cup playoffs, Tucker would help Toronto to the second round again, where they’d be defeated again at the hands of the powerful Devils, this time in 7 games.  In the 2001/02 season, Darcy Tucker would have one of his strongest season as an NHL player and accumulate his second highest point total in his career.  Playing in 77 games, Tucker would score 24 goals, 59 points while racking up 92 penalty minutes.  In the 2002 playoffs, Darcy Tucker’s 8 points in 17 playoff games helped the Toronto Maple Leafs reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1994.  Toronto would ultimately fall short of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime of game 6.  After recording 36 and 32 points over the next 2 seasons respectively, and not playing during the 2004/05 season due to the NHL lockout, Darcy Tucker returned strong when the NHL resumed play during the 2005/06 season.  Appearing in 74 games, Tucker scored career highs of 28 goals and 61 points.  Despite Darcy Tucker’s individual success, the Toronto Maple Leafs failed the make the playoffs for the first time in Tucker’s tenure with the Maple Leafs.  Darcy Tucker would play 2 more seasons in the Blue and White, serving as an alternate captain during the 2007/08 campaign, which would prove to be his final season in Toronto.

In June of 2008, Darcy Tucker became an unrestricted free agent, due to the Toronto Maple Leafs buying out his contract as part of a massive overhaul.  The Colorado Avalanche would take advantage of this, signing Darcy Tucker to a 2-year contract on July 1st, 2008.  Tucker would spend the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons in Colorado, during which he served as a mentor on a team with 18 year olds Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.  After the Avalanche were eliminated from the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by the San Jose Sharks, Tucker became a free agent.  On October 1st, 2010, Darcy Tucker announced his retirement from the NHL after 14 seasons.  In his career, Tucker would play in 947 NHL games, scoring 215 goals, 476 points while racking up 1410 penalty minutes.  In addition, he’d score 21 points in 68 career playoff games, totaling 81 penalty minutes in the process.  Immediately after his retirement, Tucker partnered up with his agent since he was 16, Carlos Sosa, and formed Turning Point, a sports representation agency.  Tucker then became an NHLPA Certified Agent.  However after a short time in the business, Darcy Tucker decided player representation wasn’t for him.  “I got out of that”, he told the London Free Press in a 2015 interview.  “Parents were calling me telling me I have to talk to the coach. My father never talked to a coach in his life.  It’s not what I believe in.  It wasn’t for me”, Tucker said.  One aspect from his playing days that Darcy Tucker has carried over to his life after hockey is his involvement in the community.  He is active in many charities across Ontario and has been a motivational speaker at various corporate events, including IBM Canada.  He has also made guest appearances on comedy shows Little Mosque on the Prairie and The Sean Cullen Show.  Darcy Tucker currently lives in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife Shannon and their 3 children, Owynn, Cole and Cain.

Written By: Chris Cunneen