Professional hockey player
Canadian-born Sandy McCarthy played several seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and became known as an imposing right wing whose speed on skates was usually quick for a player of his large size. McCarthy enjoyed a couple terrific seasons with the New York Rangers, though the team itself fared poorly and failed to make it into the playoffs. On the Rangers roster were some famous names with some astronomical payroll agreements, but Boston Herald writer Stephen Harris would later describe it as "a club laden with superstars who, judging by appearances, only played hard when they felt like it." Once McCarthy left the team to play with the Boston Bruins, he concurred with the Boston sportswriter's assessment, noting that most teams have one or two stars, then 18 or 19 other "grinders [who make] those star players as good as they are," he told Harris. "It's really tough to play with a bunch of stars on the team, because nobody wants to do the grunt work."
McCarthy was born on June 15, 1972, in Toronto, Ontario, but grew up in the village of Stroud, near the larger municipality of Barrie, Ontario. His father was a black Canadian, and his mother was a Newfoundland native of Mi'kmaq heritage, one of Canada's official First Nations, as its indigenous Native American population is known. McCarthy began playing hockey at the age of three. "I was always a lot bigger than the other kids and I used to hurt the kids my age," McCarthy recalled to John McGourty in a 2001 article that appeared on the Web site NHL.com, so he played with older kids until he was age six or seven.
A decade later, McCarthy had progressed to junior-league hockey, playing with the Midland Centennials in the Georgian Bay region and then the Hawkesbury Hawks, a team in the Central (Ontario) League. As a Hawk, McCarthy was coached by Bob Hartley, who would later go on to a successful career as a NHL coach for the Colorado Avalanche. In 1989, McCarthy joined the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Laval Titans, another top Canadian outfit in junior-league hockey. These North American junior organizations in serve as the unofficial training ground for future NHL players, and McCarthy's talents on ice were duly noticed. Selected in the 1991 NHL draft by the Calgary Flames, he finished his season with Laval before moving to Utah to play the 1992-93 season with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the International Hockey League (IHL). The IHL is a professional league, but is classified as minor league hockey, as opposed to the major league teams in the NHL.
McCarthy joined the Calgary Flames the following season and began attracting attention as a large, powerful player. As McGourty noted a few years later in the NHL.com article, the imposingly large Canadian was "a frightening sight bearing down on a goalie at full speed." In March of 1998, the Flames traded McCarthy to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and though the NHL had become more open to minority players, hockey remained the most non-diversified of all the professional sports leagues in the United States, with just 20 black players among 650 on the ice during the 1999-2000 season. Name-calling and ethnic-related taunts had long been commonplace in U.S. hockey, used first against Canadian players then those from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe; but after a few racial slur incidents gained media attention, the league was forced to introduce mandatory sensitivity training for players and adopted a zero-tolerance policy for slurs made during the heat of the game.
During his first season with the Lightning, McCarthy was involved in an incident in which another black Canadian player, Peter Worrell of the Florida Panthers, accused McCarthy and teammate Darcy Tucker of making gestures and comments with a racist overtone. Both disavowed any wrongdoing, but McCarthy did admit to making a chicken gesture at Worrell. NHL officials immediately launched an official inquiry, which cleared him and Tucker. Six months later, in April of 1999, McCarthy was this time the target of a slur during a Stanley Cup playoff game as a new member of the Philadelphia Flyers. The game was against Toronto and had been marked by a noticeable tension and brawling. In the second period, Maple Leaf forward Tie Domi "dropped an N-bomb on me," the Tampa Tribune quoted McCarthy as saying. Again, NHL officials began an investigation into the matter, and though witnesses on both sides said they did not hear the word, McCarthy maintained his ground, saying there was "no doubt whatsoever," the same Tampa Tribune article reported. "You can't mistake that word for anything else."
McCarthy spent two seasons in Philadelphia before he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in March of 2000. A few months later, he joined the New York Rangers just before their season started, and he had three impressive seasons with the team. He racked up a career high of eleven goals that first season, and during the 2001-02 season, he accumulated another career high of 23 points, which is a separate statistic from the goal counts that refers to a player who either scores a goal himself or is one of the previous two players who passes the puck ("assists") to the goal-scorer.
Despite McCarthy's prowess, the Rangers continued to lag as one of the worst-ranked teams in the NHL, consistently failing to earn a playoff berth. He was not one of its higher-paid star players, who usually spent more crowd-pleasing moments on the ice. In some games McCarthy played as little as six of the standard 60 minutes in a game. He told the New York Post that such games proved even more difficult for him than ones where he played too much, noting that at six feet, three inches and 220 pounds, it was "difficult to keep warm" on the bench waiting for the coach to put him back on the ice. In one game, he told the newspaper, "I couldn't even play in the third period…because I had been on the bench for so long that my back started to seize up."
In August of 2003, McCarthy signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins, and he played some of the season with them before the Rangers claimed him again. That season turned out to be one of the Rangers' worst, and the following year the season was cancelled because of a contentious labor dispute between the players' union and the team owners. Since the issue was resolved in the summer of 2005, McCarthy has remained an unrestricted free agent but has not been picked up by any team.
At a Glance …
Born on June 15, 1972, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Career: Played junior-league hockey in Canada, 1989-92; signed in the 1991 National Hockey League (NHL) draft; right wing for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the International Hockey League, 1992-93; on the roster of the NHL's Calgary Flames, 1993-98; traded to Tampa Bay Lightning, March 1998; traded to Philadelphia Flyers, March 1999; traded to Carolina Hurricanes, March 2000; traded to New York Rangers, August 2000; signed as free agent with the Boston Bruins, August 2003; played part of the 2003-04 season with the New York Rangers; became unrestricted free agent.
Addresses: Office—c/o New York Rangers Hockey Club, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10121.
Boston Herald, September 28, 2003, p. B8; November 16, 2003, p. B4.
New York Post, December 29, 2002, p. 84.
New York Times, March 12, 2002.
Sports Illustrated, October 4, 1999, p. 62.
Tampa Tribune, October 7, 1998, p. 6; April 28, 1999, p. 7.
"At Home on the Rangers," NHL.com,http://www.nhl.com/blackhistory/mccarthy.html (November 5, 2007).
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