Avalanche forward Darcy Tucker arrived in Denver late Monday afternoon, and was able to stop by the team’s practice facility Tuesday to meet some of the staff and also answer questions from the local media.
Tucker, who signed a two-year contract with Colorado on July 1, certainly appears to be enjoying his new surroundings.
“I’m thrilled, I’m excited to be here,” said Tucker while wearing his #16 Avalanche sweater. “It’s a change for me, it’s something new. It’s a great tradition of winning here, and to be part of it is thrilling for myself and my family.”
The 33-year-old has spent the past eight seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he produced the best years of his career. He reached the 20-goal mark in four of his last six seasons with the Leafs, while also logging 100 penalty minutes in four of his last seven campaigns. He has been particularly dangerous on the power play, scoring a combined 40 goals with the man advantage over the last three seasons, including 18 in 2005-06 and 15 in 2006-07.
Overall, he finished with 148 goals and 319 points in 531 games with Toronto. Since Tucker joined the Leafs on Feb. 9, 2000, only Mats Sundin (259) had more goals with the franchise during that span.
|Darcy Tucker speaks with the media at the Avalanche's practice facility on July 8, 2008. Photo by Joe Amon, Denver Post
Despite the great years north of the border, Tucker realizes it is going to be strange playing in front of his old fans. Although the NHL has yet to release its 2008-09 schedule, there is no guarantee that the Avalanche will be playing at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. One thing is for sure, the Avs are certain to play the Leafs at least once this year.
“It’s always fun to play against teams that you played with,” said the veteran winger. “It will be obviously difficult going into Toronto to play, as a player that’s played there for a long time. (But) it’s a new beginning for myself and my family here in Colorado.”
A native of Castor, Alberta, Tucker has spent his entire NHL career out East, playing for Montreal, Tampa Bay and Toronto. After being selected by Montreal 151st overall in the 1993 Entry Draft, the 5-10, 178-pound forward spent parts of three seasons with the Canadiens before getting dealt to Tampa Bay in January of 1998. Following two years with the Lightning, he moved on to Toronto. In 813 regular-season games, Tucker has 197 goals and 436 points while racking up 1,296 penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 62 playoff contests.
But getting back West will be a homecoming of sorts for Tucker, who played four seasons with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. Tucker’s decorated junior career included three trips to the Memorial Cup, where he was the tournament MVP in 1994, as well as selections to the WHL West First All-Star Team in 1994 and 1995 and the Canadian Major Junior First All-Star Team in 1994.
Through it all, Tucker has always brought an element of energy and hard work.
“I’ve been around the league for quite a while now,” he said. “Hopefully my work ethic and how much work I put in every day will rub off on everybody. They can show me the ropes a little bit here, too. I’ve got a lot of energy. I play the game with a lot of spirit.”
“Darcy gives us scoring ability and a physical presence up front,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. “He’s a fierce competitor. We like the combination of qualities he will bring to our roster.”
After 12 seasons in the league, Tucker has seen enough to know he likes his new organization. Not only the winning tradition, but the current roster as well.
“They got a good group of young guys and veterans. I’m thrilled to come to a team that has that tradition and is able to put out a team every year that the fans appreciate and will work hard.”