TampaBayLightning.com is taking a trip down memory lane this summer, skating back to its roots to catch up with some familiar faces. In this occasional “Where are they now?” series, fans will be reconnected with some of their favorite players from the first 16 years in Lightning history. Find out who is still in hockey, who has taken up a new hobby and what post-playing life is like for some of your favorite former Bolts.
Former National Hockey League forward John Tucker has seen a lot of Tampa Bay Lightning history.
|John Tucker helped lead the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth in 1995-96 |
As a member of the original club, Tucker played four years with the Lightning en route to helping the franchise earn its first playoff berth in 1995-96. Tucker fondly remembers playing in the old ThunderDome in St. Petersburg and at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
After playing for the Lightning, the Windsor, Ontario native finished his career overseas. Following one season in Italy, Tucker spent three years playing hockey in Japan before returning to the United States. Now within his first decade of retirement, Tucker rejoined the Lightning family and continues to give back to the community.
Since returning to Tampa, Tucker has spearheaded efforts to build the Tampa Bay Lightning Alumni Association. Working as the Director of Alumni Relations the past few years has given the former Lightning center an opportunity to maintain relationships with old teammates.
“The Lightning alumni group is kind of in the growing stage,” Tucker said. “I run the alumni, follow the old guys, where they are and what they’re doing. There are a few guys living here, and there are always guys coming down for vacation, so we work with that.”
Having just completed its 16th
year as a member of the NHL, it’s easy to consider the Lightning a young franchise. Although the alumni base may not be as established as some of the older teams, Tucker’s passion for promoting hockey in Tampa Bay has helped create a solid foundation for the organization.
“Other alumni, like the Buffalo Sabres, have 70 guys in the area,” Tucker said. “The Lightning have about eight guys living here now. The guys are involved, and we do stuff with the Lightning Foundation, for the team and with the team.”
Since founding the Alumni Association in 2001, Tucker has worked with the Lightning Foundation to give back to the community in a variety of ways. In addition to getting the alumni involved in major charitable events hosted by the Foundation, Tucker has worked to promote the sport of hockey at a grassroots level.
While playing hockey professionally, Tucker gravitated towards coaching young students of the game. Now that his son is playing, the joys of teaching hockey have only multiplied.
“I’ve been involved in minor hockey for a long time now,” Tucker said. “Hockey schools, camps and clinics, going to practices and hanging out. I have a 7-year-old son, so I am involved on the board of the Junior Lightning.”
Tucker’s involvement with the Junior Lightning, a local minor hockey organization, has naturally spilled into the goals of the alumni organization.
“Our main goal is to try and help minor hockey in the area,” Tucker said of the alumni. “We’ve all been trying to grow the sport of hockey since we’ve been here – there are probably 500 kids in the Tampa Bay area that play hockey in the various rinks. And, we’re going to try and help other causes, whatever we can fit in.”
When Tucker isn’t running the alumni group, he often enjoys his time by doing something he’s done his whole life. He plays hockey.
“It’s great to be able to live here, and give back, and do something I like to do,” Tucker said. “I still play two days a week, and now that my son is playing it’s fun to watch him learn and play the game that he can play his whole life.”
With his own son learning the joys of playing hockey and a growing alumni association to run, Tucker’s involvement in the sport only seems to be strengthening through retirement. One could say that as player who has watched the club grow from day one, Tucker is now doing his part to contribute to the history of the franchise.
“I was lucky enough to be here when it all started on the first year of the team,” Tucker said. “I was able to be there when it was growing and have seen how far it’s come, so it’s great to still be involved.”