Darren McCarty is one of the most popular and successful hockey players ever to emerge from Essex County. An integral part of the Detroit Red Wings dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s, McCarty won four Stanley Cups and earned a reputation as one of the grittiest players at hockey’s highest level.
Born and raised in Leamington, McCarty learned the game as a member of the Southpoint Minor Hockey Association. By the age of 15, he found himself playing at the Junior “B” level for his hometown Leamington Flyers.
McCarty’s hockey journey soon took him to Peterborough for another year of Junior “B” with the Roadrunners. Before long, McCarty signed as a free agent with the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls. There, McCarty earned First Team All-Star honours with the Bulls and won the 1991-92 Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the OHL’s highest scoring right winger.
McCarty’s OHL exploits attracted significant attention from professional clubs, and he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. After one season with the Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate in Adirondack, he embarked on a memorable 13-year NHL career that included four Stanley Cup championships and a handful of the greatest moments in Red Wings history. Consider the night in March 1997 when McCarty famously “settled the score” with Colorado Avalanche tough guy Claude Lemieux, or the Stanley Cup-winning goal he scored a few months later against Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers. That said, McCarty always privileged collective success over individual highlights. He was the ultimate team player.
From the moment he first pulled the “winged wheel” jersey over his shoulders, McCarty endeared himself to Red Wings fans with a tough and gritty style of play that gave no quarter and asked none in return. His was the perfect game for a blue-collar city like Detroit; through the years, many believed that he came as close as anyone to embodying the essence of Red Wings hockey. Alongside longtime linemates Kris Draper and Mirk Maltby, McCarty was one third of the trio forever remembered as the Grind Line, which specialized in shutting down opponents’ top offensive units.
One of the most popular athletes in recent Detroit sports history, McCarty was awarded with the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2003. He has given freely of his time to charitable and worthwhile causes in the Detroit and Essex County areas throughout his career and beyond.