Tucker personifies Leafs' frustrations

JODY VANCE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Watching Darcy Tucker make the announcement that his gimped knee will keep him out of the Toronto Maple Leafs' lineup indefinitely was not only medically revealing, but also rather symbolic.

Sitting before a throng of hungry media, the feisty warrior was resigned by his fate -- with black eye and fat lip providing punctuation. Tucker's message was basically "sucks to be me."

This young man personifies the prevailing vibe in that room. No matter how they prepare or commit to the game plan, the results are the same all too often.

Close -- but not enough.

What gets lost in all of the rhetoric surrounding this team's early season struggles is the heart that exists at the core of the club.

While the naysayers wax poetic, very few speak to the drive and determination personified by guys like Darcy Tucker.

When you spend as much time at the rink as I do, you can't help but see these players as more than hockey players; they are humans.

When the glare of the camera disappears, raw emotion remains and it is tough to cut through the tension that comes with losing winnable games; there is no counterbalance to the stress of knowing how frustrated fans are.

Behind the scenes, believe me when I say that the players do not shrug their shoulders at losses and go home to count their millions; these public punching bags do more damage beating themselves up.

Tucker's face carries the bruises, literally, but the real pain comes from behind the eyes. You know this guy is not sleeping at night. The weight of Leafs Nation is heavy.

Unfortunately, watching from the press box will only make matters of the mattress worse because rocking the expensive suit is not how No. 16 wants to be earning his cheque -- rocking the opponent is how he wants to make his money.

-- Jody Vance is a longtime sportscaster and personality with Leafs TV. Her column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours.


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