What he lacks in size, Darcy Tucker makes up for in moxie. In this edition of Facing Off, the Maple Leafs forward tells David Amber why he'll drop the gloves with anyone, how he and Michael Peca have buried the hatchet and why he would love to go one-on-one with President Bush.
David Amber: Your dad coached you from age 5 to 14. What was that like for you, being the coach's son?
Darcy Tucker: It was great. He is really knowledgeable about the game, and for me to have a parent figure at the rink helped a lot. After that, I looked at all of my coaches as someone who could help me improve as a player, but also improve as a person. So, having my dad there as my coach early on really made a difference.
Amber: I've read your father was a real disciplinarian. Describe that infamous story when, at age 10, you faked an injury on the ice, and the long ride home afterward.
Tucker: He wasn't happy. He told me he never wanted to me to do that again on the ice. I figured because I scored a few goals in that game, I was pretty good, so I brushed him off. He didn't appreciate that too much, so he told me to get out of the car and walk home in the middle of winter in icy cold Alberta. (laughs)
Amber: And what was that like?
Tucker: I thought he was kidding. Then, when he drove off, I realized he wasn't joking, so I started to walk down the road, and then I started to run. (Laughs.) Once I got home, he told me he never wanted it to happen again. And it didn't.
Amber: You were drafted by Montreal in 1993, spending five seasons with their organization. You are now in your seventh season with the Maple Leafs. How different is it playing for these two historic teams?
Tucker: I don't know if there is a big difference. Both organizations are first class, both have a great winning tradition and both are Canadian cities. So, even though it's a rivalry, they are more similar they you'd think.
Amber: With your first NHL paycheck, you went out a bought a car. What was that like for you?
Tucker: I bought a car, a GMC Yukon, that was great. Also, I helped out my father with some things on his farm. It was a pretty exciting experience to be able to do that. I have a very humble background, so to be able to help out in that way was a neat experience.
Amber: Do you still drive the Yukon? I assume with all the contracts you've signed since then you have upgraded your ride.
Tucker: I'm fortunate here in Toronto to be friends with some guys who own car dealerships, so they help me out quite well. (Laughs.)
Amber: You scored 28 goals last season, more than a lot of "skilled" players. Does it bother you that some players around the league still think of Darcy Tucker as an agitator?
Tucker: Well, perception is everything. People only believe what they believe to be true. I just take it as one of those things that I have to go and prove every night that I am a multidimensional player that can do lots of things.
Amber: One big part of your game has been dropping the gloves when you feel you have to. Any idea how many fights you've had as an NHL player?
Tucker: No. I don't pay attention to that stuff. I just want to help my team win.
Amber: OK, but you should know you've had 75 fights, including the preseason and playoffs.
Tucker: (Laughs.) Really? Wow, that's surprising. That's a lot of fights. I'm one of those guys that won't back down from anybody. I may get my share of lickings, but the No. 1 thing is I'm not going to back down from anybody.
Amber: You're married to Shayne Corson's sister. If you and Shayne got into a fight, who is she going to cheer for?
Tucker: (Laughs.) Well, first of all, we wouldn't fight; we have way too much respect for each other as family members to do something like that. I hope she would root for me; she does when we're playing cards.
Amber: You've said that if you could meet one person, it would be President Bush. Why him?
Tucker: I would like to pick his brain. I think his political views are on the same line as my own. I think the wave of the future is someone who doesn't back down to terrorism. When I saw those planes go into the buildings in New York that day, that was the turning point, not only in the United States, but throughout North America. So I really back what he is trying to do.
Amber: With your style, fans either love you or hate you. Which is the toughest rink to play in?
Tucker: Probably Long Island after what happened a couple of years ago in the playoffs. But now with Mike Peca coming to our hockey club, it will take some pressure off, because we will both get booed.
Amber: You're referring to the hit you put on Peca in Long Island when he was with New York, a hit that tore his knee up. Now that he's a teammate, what have you learned about Mike Peca?
Tucker: That's the great thing about this game. You don't know people personally until you get to hang out with them on a daily basis. We've become pretty good friends and our kids go to the same school and are in the same class, so it's an easy transition for us as teammates when the families are so close like that.
Amber: Did he show you the scar on his knee and say "Hey, you did this"? Could you guys laugh about it now?
Tucker: Well, it's a difficult thing. I think the healing process starts when you make amends and apologies are made. Things happen in the game that maybe sometimes you regret. I have been on the other end of the stick the same way. [Daniel] Alfredsson hit me and broke my shoulder a few years ago, and if I ended up playing with Alfie, it would be the same thing. I don't hold grudges.
Amber: They list you at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. Is that accurate?
Tucker: I'd say it's pretty close. I'm not going to divulge that information. (Laughs.)
Amber: Bottom line is that you are smaller than the average NHL player. You have had your share of injuries (broken toes, thumb, nose, front teeth, orbital bone, shoulder blade and countless scars). Are you amazed at the beating your body has taken?
Tucker: No. If you look at the amount of games I have played on a yearly basis, it's right up there. The most games I ever missed were 18, so I've been very fortunate. There's a difference between being injured and being hurt, you can play through bumps and bangs, I've been lucky that way.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.