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McCarty eyes NHL comeback, to play in IHL

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Darren McCarty's distain for the Avalanche is well-documented. The former Wing has set-out on the comeback trail.
DETROIT – Former Red Wings enforcer Darren McCarty is embarking on a comeback try that will begin later this week in Flint, Mich.


McCarty, who spent 11 seasons with the Red Wings and won three Stanley Cups in that time, played in 32 games in an injury-plagued 2006-07 season with Calgary. He could make his International Hockey League debut as early as this Friday when the Generals host the Port Huron Icehawks at Perani Arena.

“I spent a lot of time with the kids; family stuff,” said McCarty, who attended the Wings-Colorado Avalanche game Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “I just realized that I miss the game a lot and I want to be around it and give it a shot to get back.”

McCarty hopes that he can revive an NHL career where he compiled 126 goals, 160 assists and 1,450 penalty minutes in 742 games.

He began practicing with the Generals on Monday.

“I will play a game soon,” McCarty said. “I’m just eager to get some games in and get back into game-shape. That’s the whole purpose of being there.”

The idea, McCarty said, is for him to return to the NHL by season’s end. But he’s not making predictions on exactly what that timetable will be.

“I guess I can’t answer that until I get an IHL game in,” McCarty said. “Obviously, I haven’t played in a year, so I’ve got to be some time to get back into NHL game-shape.”

A big part of the Wings’ Stanley Cup past, McCarty, along with teammates Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, formed the famed Grind Line.

McCarty is perhaps best remembered for two events: scoring the series-clinching winner in Game 4 against Philadelphia in the 1997 Cup finals, and for his fight with then-Avs agitator Claude Lemieux on March 29, 1997.

“I’ve been to a few games here,” McCarty said. “Just talking to the guys, getting back on the ice, it’s been good. I’m tired of skating by myself. Now it’s nice to get a team to skate with.”

McCarty gives partial credit for his comeback to his friend, Draper, who has a business interest in the Flint team.

“He really helped me,” McCarty said. “I told him that I had the itch and I needed his help. He’s a longtime, true friend and he did everything that he could, and obviously with him being involved with the Flint team is a big reason. Everything sort of worked itself out.”

Ultimately, McCarty said that he desires a return to Hockeytown, but would accept an offer from another team if it got him back to the NHL.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” he said. “Obviously, my heart is here, but the one thing that I’ve learned is you never rule anything out. You always have to keep your options open.”

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