Photo: Darren McCarty, May 24, 2008 during a post game interview after a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena. Photo Jack Rosenberg – In Play! magazine
From Glory Days Featuring Darren McCarty
You cannot think about the Detroit Red Wings four Stanley Cups in eleven years without thinking about Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Darren McCarty who were affectionately known as the Grind Line. Although McCarty grew up just on the other side of the border in Leamington, Ontario, McCarty felt like he was a Detroiter from the very beginning. “My childhood home was about five to ten minutes to the border and then about 40 minutes to the Joe, about the distance most suburbs are from downtown,” he shared. At the time of his childhood the Red Wings were not playing well, a time known as the “Dead Things” era, and most people in Leamington were either fans of the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite all of that, McCarty still rooted for his hometown Red Wings, even attending a game at Olympia Arena when he was five years of age, which eventually was torn down by the time he turned pro.
Although he loved hockey, Darren’s first love was baseball. He was a huge fan of the Detroit Tigers and idolized Lance Parrish, painting his catcher glove orange to look like Parrish’s. Like Parrish, McCarty played catcher and went on to win three Ontario provincial championships in high school. “I could not hit a curveball and was better at hitting people in hockey,” McCarty joked, which became a big reason for switching from baseball to hockey. Since the age of eight he worked for his stepdad’s refrigeration business and used that experience as a motivation to do something different in life while paying for extra weeks at hockey camp.
In 1992 Darren McCarty was drafted by the Red Wings and immediately made an impact as a scorer but also realized he needed to do something more to make it in the NHL. He always felt he was good with his hands and quickly earned a reputation as an enforcer on the ice. McCarty really put himself on the map on March 26, 1997 against the Colorado Avalanche and the famous fight he had with Avalanche player Claude Lemieux. “A lot of people say I sucker punched him but if you look at the way we were looking at each other, it was really a cold-cock,” McCarty quipped. The Red Wings had yet to beat the Avalanche in a playoff series, yet that fight and the game winning goal in overtime by McCarty, changed fortunes for the Wings.
The Red Wings would win their first Stanley Cup championship in 42 years in 1992 and would win two more by 2002. McCarty thinks the Red Wings were successful because of how Mike and Marian Ilitch, the team owners, treated the players as if they were the Ilitchs’ own kids. He also felt Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman was unique in being like a psychologist, knowing that he could treat every player different to be successful. Bowman knew that what motivated one player wouldn’t necessarily inspire another, and he learned to leave McCarty alone because Darren would motivate himself to deliver every night.
After the NHL installed the salary cap following the locked out 2004-05 season, the Red Wings released Darren to save money and he was signed by the Calgary Flames. Things began to look grim for his career as he would only score seven goals in two years and was released by the Flames. The Red Wings picked him back up in 2007 and allowed him to work his way up through the minors to be back in the NHL. He returned just in time to get his fourth Stanley Cup in 2008. After one more year in the NHL, McCarty’s body was done. He was satisfied with his comeback and getting that last cup. During this transition, McCarty also struggled quite publicly with addictions and financial troubles.
He started to get things together by moving to Clearwater, Florida and marrying his longtime girlfriend Sheryl Sirmons. By 2013, Darren was off both alcohol and pills and began advocating for medical marijuana, which he claims helped him quit other drugs. He also attributed the writing of his book, “My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star” as a way for him to clear the air on things in his life. Darren has been part of the Detroit Red Wings alumni travel team, which allows him to not only keep playing with his old teammates, something he really missed when he first retired, but also raise money for charity. Although McCarty is not the most active guy on social media, he is part of an interactive service called FanCrater which, for $10 dollars a month, allows fans to hear from him one on one with daily updates and chatting. This service is available at DMac.FanCrater.com. Darren also has a podcast with Red Wings alums on PodcastDetroit.com.
When it comes to transitions in life, Darren McCarty wants people to be aware of their credit score, something people may not always think about. Hindsight has helped him understand that good credit can open more financial doors but can also close doors as he’s experienced because of bankruptcy and poor credit.
You can catch Darren McCarty’s full TV interview this Sunday, April 22nd on From Glory Days, on TV20 Detroit at 6:00 a.m. Set your alarms or DVRs to hear Darren’s story directly from this former Stanley Cup Champion himself.
Check out other athletes featured on the From Glory Days page.
Michael Holzman is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn with honors, with a BA in Communications. He also has a communications and broadcasting degree from Specs Howard School of Media Arts. A native of the Detroit area, Michael is now an associate producer for the TV show, “From Glory Days” and also works for Yellow Flag Productions, primarily reporting and gathering video for their popular show, “State Champs Sports Network.”