Despite never having played a game in Fort Wayne, right wing Darren McCarty was the only member of the visiting team not to receive the customary jeers Wednesday.
The longtime Detroit Red Wings star repaid the hockey faithful by talking lovingly about the sport’s lineage in Fort Wayne, even after his Flint Generals lost to the Komets 4-2 in front of 5,791 fans.
“It’s a great facility, and it was great to see the turnout. The reputation definitely precedes,” said McCarty, who was scoreless and had a first-period slashing penalty that set up a Fort Wayne power-play goal. “It makes you feel good. You hear about how die-hard the fans have always been here, even back when the old (International Hockey League) was around. The guys who have come through here talk about how much they loved playing here. To sort of be a part of it was (nice), though I would have liked a little bit better outcome.”
McCarty has played five games in his attempt to make it back to the NHL. He played for the Red Wings from 1993 to 2004 – winning three Stanley Cups – then spent two seasons with the Calgary Flames. He had 126 goals, 286 points and 1,450 penalty minutes in 742 regular-season games in the NHL, plus 22 goals, 47 points and 209 penalty minutes in 157 playoff games.
He was, however, scoreless with 58 penalty minutes in 32 games last season with Calgary and received little interest in free agency. His friend and former linemate, Kris Draper, is a part-owner of the Generals, which is why his comeback began in the new IHL.
“Tonight was the least amount of fun I’ve had, so I’ll have to take that out on Bloomington on Friday night,” McCarty said. “This is great hockey with a lot of young up-and-coming guys and a lot of veteran guys. This is a great team, this Flint team, to be a part of and be around the guys and just to be back in the game. I’m grateful.”
McCarty, a 35-year-old native of Burnaby, British Columbia, has two goals, four points and nine penalty minutes with Flint. He also had one fight with Chris Kovalcik of Muskegon. He knows young tough guys around the league may want to challenge one of the NHL’s most noted fighters, but no confrontations came Wednesday.
“The game plays itself, and that’s obviously not a primary concern of mine right now,” McCarty said. “I’m not looking just to fight guys to fight guys. But if a situation in a game comes up … it’s when a game gets chippy that guys take exceptions.”
Flint coach Kevin Kerr, whose team trails the league-leading Komets by seven points, said McCarty’s influence has been a positive one.
“He’s just great in our locker room and is just a guy who helps all the young guys, is a great leader and helps me,” Kerr said. “He points things out, and you’ve got to respect the fact that he’s been there in the NHL and won three Stanley Cups.”