Monday, December 7, 2009

So Long, Mac...

So Darren McCarty officially announced his retirement today (which was odd because I had been under the impression that it already was official, but that’s not really the point). Somehow, back when he announced it the first time, the news somehow got lost in the shuffle here at SSDD. But Mac deserves better than that. I always loved him, even in his bizarre goatee, weird colored hair, and Grinder days. He was one of those guys who you just loved to love because he always seemed like he was having a great time out there. It felt like every time he stepped out on the ice was the best moment of his life.

I was absolutely thrilled when he returned to Detroit for a shot at redemption. Remember in ’08 when he scored that goal in the first round against Nashville? Just try to convince me that you didn’t want to reach through your TV and give the man a hug. I could watch that goal celebration over and over again. Maybe it was just me, but that goal carried with it more than your usual excitement over a Wings’ playoff tally. I was proud. Really proud. It’s one of those little moments that hockey gives you that makes you keep coming back night after night no matter how rough things are. (And maybe, just maybe, someone out there who’s through some of the same things McCarty went through might find that goal meaningful.)

But that wasn’t even his most memorable goal. Oh no. He gave us this little beauty that went down as the game winner for the ’97 Cup.

Yeah that one. The one that we still can’t believe he scored twelve years later. Even Steve Yzerman didn’t believe that he scored that goal (“We were celebrating and the first guy I see is Stevie Yzerman in the pile. His eyes were as big as saucers and he said ‘What the [expletive] was that? I had no idea.” --For the record, that's exactly what was going through my mind at that moment, except I was a kid and didn't use words like that.). But really, what Mac will go down in Red Wings lore for is this:

I’m pretty sure I’ve already written about 37,856 words about that one moment in hockey history, so I won’t bore you with that. However, if you don’t watch that video at least 3 times a day, I’m afraid that I can’t consider you to be a real Wings fan.

This comment (yeah, I know, it’s from an Avs fan) from that Adrian Dater post does a pretty good job summing up one of the things that endeared McCarty to fans so much over the years:
I have love for Darren McCarty. On March 23, 2002, the Avs played the hated Red Wings at the Pepsi Center... this was the game where Hasek tried to fight Roy, but ended up stepping on a stick as he skated in and ended up on his keester. Anyways, I went to this game. My dad took me for my 14th birthday, got some great seats in the lower bowl. We made sure to show up early (we got out to one or two Avs games a season only because tickets were spendy and hard to come by). We were seated on the Red Wings side for warm ups, and I walked down to the glass and stared in awe as guys like Lidstrom, Yzerman, Shanny, and so on made it look so easy before the game.

OK, so here's my real story: at one point, McCarty skated by the boards and pointed at me (having that guy point at you as a chubby, awkward 14 year old certainly gets your attention). On his next go round the ice, he skated up with a puck, flicked it up and bounced it off the top of the glass back onto the ice. Next time he came back, except this time picked up a puck and threw it as he skated by -- except this time it sailed to far and ended up in the hands of a guy 4 rows behind me. Finally, one last time he skated around, picked up a puck, stopped at the glass, pointed at me and tossed a puck over the boards into my hands.

That was awesome. He had no reason to go out of his way and insure I got a puck, but he did. I was even wearing an Avalanche black practice jersey, but it didn't matter; he still saw the look on my face and made sure I got a puck. I still keep that puck on my desk up here at school in Washington. For that, I will always have some love for Darren. I had always seen him as an enemy goon, but there was nothing goonish about the way he made my day. The Avs lost, but the real memory of the day came from before the game thanks to a "hated rival".

I wish him the best.
I’m not usually one who’s inclined to agree with things said by people who support the Avalanche, but that was kind of classic Darren McCarty so I'll make an exception this one time. He's always been one of my favorites. I really do hope that the whole Versus thing works out. Maybe he’ll teach them how to run a hockey broadcast.


  1. We love McCarty not just because he was a tough hockey player or because he took down Claude Lemieux. We love him because when he's on the ice, he's a little boy wanting to play the game he loves. We love him because, despite his toughness, he has a heart of gold when it comes to a kid watching him from the other side of the glass or in a wheelchair at Children's Hospital. We love him because it doesn't always come easy for him: he has to fight for it everyday. We love him because he's one of us.

    I, too, will miss his scraggly goatee, his toothless grin, and his grit out on the ice. I wish him well as he moves from the bench to the broadcasting booth!

  2. Amen to everything said by both Kris and the Morton family.

    McCarty has always been one of my favourite players, mainly because he's always been the guy who goes out there and is ready to give everything for his team. I can't remember a game where he didn't show up, battle and sacrifice himself for a win and for his teammates. And the fact he stuck up for Kris Draper, and now and then did amazing stuff (like the 97 goal, maybe my favourite hockey moment ever) only makes me love him more.

    Talking about the Blood game (or well, I should probably refer to it as Fight Night at the Joe) though, my favourite moment is not in that brawl. Through watching that game 5-6 times per year at least, the moment I've come to love is after the game, when everybody walks off the ice and pats McC on the head, Kris Draper walks up to him and give him the biggest hug, like saying: thanks for sticking up for me mate. That moments make me feel so fuzzy and warm inside.