Mike Ulmer has worked for seven news organizations including the National Post and, most recently, the Toronto Sun. Mike has written about the Leafs for 10 years and wrote Captains, a book about the club's greatest leaders.
February 27, 2007
It's a moment emblazoned on Darcy Tucker's psyche.
He was eight or nine or so, playing on the frozen pond back home in Central Alberta with his mom Florence and his little brother, Dwight.
Darcy was a little bigger than his sibling, so he delighted in chipping the puck through his brother's legs and recapturing it.
"Why don't you play that game with me?" Florence said in a sunny, motherly way.
He did. And as he went to skate buy, his Mother came up with an uppercut.
"Forearm shiver," he told me once.
"That wasn't fair," he said, looking up.
"Life's not fair," she said.
Darcy Tucker learned fast. Fair wasn't one side pasting the other. Fair meant a fair exchange.
Tucker has signed a multi-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs and his agent, Carlos Sosa, has told newspapers that Tucker's desire to remain a Maple Leaf was so powerful, it overrode the thought of getting more elsewhere or the usual negotiations strong-arming.
"For me, I'm not going to gauge somebody," Tucker said yesterday. "I grew up on a farm in Alberta. A good deal is a deal that's fair to both parties."
You make your own luck. You make your own fair.
It has served Tucker pretty well. He has matured into a dangerous scorer whose maniacal edge has been dialed down to a medium burn.
A player once best known to explosive bursts of on-ice-temper, Tucker is now a polished goalscorer and a staple of the Leafs power play.
"He brings grit," is the way Mats Sundin puts it.
Tucker was on pace for a monster season until a foot injury knocked him out of the lineup. He still managed to score 19 goals in 39 games and is testing out the foot with light skating.
The contract is wonderful news for Leafs general manager John Ferguson who has another one of his main elements in place going into the post-season. If the deals for Peter Forsberg and Keith Tkachuk are any indication, the going rate for players who bring first-rate scoring skills and significant amounts of jam is one or more first-round draft choices and players off the roster. As soon as he comes into the lineup, Tucker has the impact of a freshly acquired player.
He hasn't played since New Year's Day.
But will Tucker will be the same player once he has the security of a long-term deal.
Will Darcy Tucker change?
Yes, he will. He will change into precisely the player he wants to be. He has been reinventing himself throughout his career and it's pretty safe notion that the Darcy Tucker of say 2008-2009, will be the same wild-eyed, slightly-out-of-control maniac he has been in past years. He may be a step slower. Believe me; he'll be just as angry.
This is important in a team reaching the end of Mats Sundin's leadership tenure. At 36, the great Sundin probably has only a year-or two left. Another leadership core comprised of Alex Steen and Matt Stajan and heaven knows who else is on the horizon. They will have, in Tucker, a leader, whether he wears an A or C.