McCarthy’s NHL resurrection is on the right path
Veteran rearguard signs with Abbotsford in bid to one day return to the big leagues
Steve McCarthy, skating as an Atlanta Thrasher in 2008, is looking to resurrect his NHL career. He has a shot at making the Calgary Flames when/if the NHL comes back, but for now he’ll focus on the American Hockey League where he has signed a deal with the Abbotsford Heat.
Photograph by: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
Steve McCarthy. The name might have sound vaguely familiar to some of his new colleagues, but no one seemed to recognize the one-time Chicago Blackhawk, Vancouver Canuck and Atlanta Thrasher.
No one pegged him as a former first-round draft pick. No one figured he had 312 NHL games on his resume. And no one picked up on the presence of a Canadian legend from the 2000 World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.
“Have you ever seen the movie Brubaker?” asked Heat head coach Troy Ward. “Robert Redford comes in as an inmate, but he’s really the next warden of the prison. But in order to figure out what’s wrong in the prison society, he goes in as an inmate first. They all thought he was an inmate.”
We’re not sure if McCarthy will appreciate the metaphor, but . . .
“That’s Steve McCarthy,” Ward said. “He came in here very unassuming, just came in to do his thing. Nobody knew he was a player from before or where he was drafted. The young kids here today, they don’t know.
“They just thought Steve was one of the boys trying out.”
In this case, the “boy” tried out and made the team. He officially putting pen to paper over the weekend on an AHL contract at the wise old age of 31.
And so the next step of an improbable NHL comeback bid begins for the Trail, B.C., native in his home province.
“If you look over my career, you’ll see a lot more downs than ups,” said the six-foot-one, 198-pounder, “It just seems like the last couple of years I started to get healthy. I kind of struggled with injuries for a bit there.”
To say McCarthy kind of struggled with injuries is like saying Barack Obama “kind of” looked distracted and uncomfortable in last week’s presidential debate in the Mile High City.
The trouble for McCarthy started in 2007-08 when he tore an abdominal muscle as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.
“I played with it and probably shouldn’t have,” he said. “I had just a terrible season.”
Give him credit for full disclosure on that score (although a minus-23 rating in 55 games pretty much tells the story).
A short time later, over in Europe, he ripped up his shoulder and then completely blew out a knee.
Finally feeling close to 100 per cent last year, McCarthy played for Bob Hartley and the Zurich Lions and scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the championship final with just 2.5 seconds left on the clock.
Building on a solid season in Switzerland, McCarthy followed Hartley (the new coach of the Flames) this summer back to North America.
Don’t be shocked to see McCarthy in Calgary at some point if, and when, the NHL lockout eventually ends.
“Let’s be honest, at the end of day every kid growing up in Canada obviously wants to play in the NHL,” McCarthy said. “But I’ll be honest, it’s really not something I’m thinking about.”
And as the days pass, McCarthy might even tell a few war stories to his younger teammates, especially the tale of how he became the unfortunate poster boy of the 2000 World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.
“I still have nightmares about that,” he said. “I was playing defence. Maxime Ouelette was the goalie. I think he was a Philadelphia draft pick. Anyway, there was a shot and the puck went straight up and it was coming down behind him. I jumped and batted it out of there air.
“But while I was in the air, I got hit from behind and came down and literally bit the crossbar.”
The impact obliterated all four of his front teeth.
“The root of my tooth was shattered in my gum, so they tried to pick that out and tried to stop the bleeding,” he said. “I remember putting on a visor and finishing the game.”
Now that is the exact kind of leadership Ward — and the Flames — are looking for.
ICE CHIPS . . . GM Jay Feaster trimmed the Heat roster from 45 to 31 over the weekend. Notable cuts include C Mitch Wahl (second round, 2008), LW Ryan Howse (third round, 2009), and centre Gaelan Patterson (seventh round, 2009.) The three have been assigned to the Utah Grizzlies of the East Coast Hockey League.
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