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Tucker sorry to leave Lightning but happy to be a Maple Leaf

Published Nov. 17, 2000
Updated Sep. 28, 2005

A piece of Darcy Tucker still lives in Tampa.

The former Lightning center has become a mainstay for the Maple Leafs, but his first choice was to stay with Tampa Bay. He said that when rumors first circulated last season that he was on the trading block, he asked management if he could stay.

"But I understand, they wanted to go in a different direction," Tucker said Monday.

The trade for right wing Mike Johnson and defenseman Marek Posmyk worked for both teams. Tampa Bay liked Johnson's skills and speed and added a defensive prospect. The Maple Leafs got the gritty, physical, bundle of energy it believes it needs to compete in the playoffs.

Tucker said he was upset by reports he was traded, in part, because he was too hard on the Lightning's younger players.

"I was hard on people, but it's not because I wanted to hurt anybody's feelings," he said. "I wanted to win hockey games."

Tucker had seven goals and 10 assists in 27 games for Toronto last season. He has four goals, two assists in 18 games this season. This month, he signed a four-year, $5.3-million contract extension.

Tucker wishes the Maple Leafs would extend themselves a bit more. "We're going through an 82-game schedule like we're waiting for (the playoffs to start) and then we'll turn the light switch on," he said.

Tucker also wishes the Lightning well and said he considers the team special because it is where his career took off.

He is glad it landed in Toronto.

"This is a great place to play hockey, that's for sure," he said. "It's been great for me."

_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO