Throwback: Darcy Tucker takes on the Ottawa Senators’ bench

Cam Lewis
1 year ago
The Battle of Ontario was one of the most exciting rivalries during the early 2000s.
Both the Leafs and Senators were competitive teams at the same time, they met in the playoffs nearly every spring, and their rosters both featured some heels who weren’t afraid to rough things up.
The best agitator that the Leafs had during this era was Darcy Tucker. He would crash the net, score goals, throw bone-crushing hits, chirp anybody on the ice, and he wasn’t afraid to back it up by dropping the gloves. Tucker was the epitome of a player you’d love to have on your team but you’d absolutely loathe playing against.
Over the course of his career with the Leafs, Tucker scored 148 goals and 319 points in 531 games while racking up 756 penalty minutes. Nobody had to deal with Tucker more than the Sens did, as he put up 165 penalty minutes against them over the course of 55 regular-season games and 21 playoff games in his career.
During a pivotal Game 5 in the second round of the 2002 playoffs, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson drilled Tucker with a hit front behind along the boards in Toronto’s zone. Fans at the Air Canada Centre were irate that there wasn’t a penalty called, and Alfredsson blew the lid off of the building moments later by scoring to give Ottawa a 3-2 lead late in the third period.

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The Senators wound up winning the game and taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Following the game, Alfredsson was asked about the hit, and he responded: “I was just finishing my check.” That was a direct response to a controversial hit that Tucker had thrown in Toronto’s first-round series against the New York Islanders that knocked Michael Peca out of the playoffs with a knee injury. After that game, Tucker said “I was just finishing my check. I don’t know what the big hoopla is about.”
Tucker didn’t play in Game 6 or Game 7 but the Leafs won both games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. He missed the first game of the series against the Carolina Hurricanes but returned and played in the rest. Tucker scored the lone goal in a must-win Game 5 while the Leafs were down 3-1 in the series but they wound up losing in Game 6 in overtime.
The beef between the two teams reached a boiling point during a head-to-head at the Corel Centre in Ottawa in March of the following season. The Leafs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first period but the Sens answered back with three power-play goals in the second frame to take a commanding lead.
In the third period, Travis Green was called for a charging penalty, and as he was skating to the penalty box, he started pointing at Ottawa’s bench. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Tucker flew in and started to scrap with Senators forward Chris Neil, who was sitting on the bench.

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The Sens added another power-play goal to make the score 4-1 and they cruised to an easy victory. After the game, Leafs head coach Pat Quinn said that Tucker was charged up because Neil spat on him.
“The kid [Neil] spit on him [Tucker]… How do you like that in our game?” a cautious but steaming Quinn said. When asked if that’s what set him off in his stick-pounding episode, he replied “You bet! You bet!”
Neil flatly denied Quinn’s accusation. “I didn’t spit on anyone, [Quinn] can say what he wants,” Neil insisted. “I’m not that kind of player. I made a clean hit on Green, he didn’t take it too well, and he went after Shane [Hnidy]. I didn’t really see Tucker come at me until the last second. He caught me with a high-stick at the bench and I don’t like to take that kind of stuff. But, I thought most of us kept our cool in that situation”
For the record, no one in the Toronto dressing room aside from Quinn would admit to seeing Neil spit at Tucker.
“I don’t really know what happened but I do know what I’ve heard,” said Green. “I know Darcy wouldn’t lie about something like that. He’s a stand-up guy. So, I believe him.”
Tucker stomped past reporters with a scowl on his face, refusing to comment on anything. Tie Domi, another willing scrapper, also hit the mute button.
The Leafs and Sens, unfortunately, didn’t meet in the playoffs that spring, ending a streak of three consecutive years that featured a Battle of Ontario playoff series. Toronto finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and got edged out in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers, while Ottawa boasted the league’s best record but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the New Jersey Devils.

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