Thursday, July 28, 2005

We'll Miss You, Darren!

Sorry, folks, but I need to take another moment of self-indulgence. As a Red Wings fan, I feel the need to publicly express my deep sadness at the loss of fan favorite Darren McCarty. He's been a Red Wing his entire career. He's never been the big flashy star like Sergei Federov. He's never been the stoic leader like Steve Yzerman. But he's always been there. For the team, for Detroit, for the fans. He was the one who beat the living crap out of cheap-shot artist extraordinaire Claude Lemieux a full year after he slammed Kris Draper into the boards forcing Drapes to get reconstructive surgery on his face. He was the one who surprised everyone in that bar in Ferndale by randomly showing up with the Stanley Cup one night. He was the one with the natural hat trick against Patrick Roy and the Avalanche in the conference finals. He was the one who started a cancer foundation in Detroit to honor his father after he died. He was the one always working his ass off on the ice, no matter what the score happened to be.

But alas, with the new CBA, the Wings just don't have the money to spend on fan favorites anymore, no matter how much they bring to the locker room, if they're not putting up big numbers on the ice. It's hard to put a dollar amount on intangibles. The Wings were forced to buy him out of his contract and set him loose. It's going to be bittersweet to see Darren wearing another team's sweater. But it sounds like he has a good perspective on the situation. I've never heard of a player, especially a role player, writing an open letter to his fans saying goodbye. But he did. It's not exactly Lou Gehrig, but I get a little teary-eyed reading it:

Don't be sad it's over -- be happy it happened.

In the past few days, since the official word came of the buyout and as the status of my contract teetered, the reality that I'm not going to be a Red Wing anymore has set in, and I've taken some time to reflect.

I don't know if it's maturity ('cause if you know me, that's never been an issue) or the painstaking reality of the past 12 months without hockey. Either way, I'm saddened to leave an organization in a place where I've grown up, raised a family, been part of a first-class and first-rate team, won three Stanley Cups and achieved great personal success.

But looking back, what I really feel is gratitude -- thankful for the opportunity to realize a childhood dream to play for my childhood team. Grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and their entire family for letting this boy become a man and always treating my family as one of their own. Grateful to the entire Red Wing organization from Ken Holland and his staff, to John Hahn and Anne Marie Krappmann in the PR department for their ever tireless effort. Grateful to Piet Van Zant and Paul Boyer for patching me up and getting me back out on the ice. Grateful for the support and memories from everyone at the Joe whom I will miss seeing daily, and thankful to the media for not only their endless support of myself but in the way they've always supported the McCarty Cancer Foundation and my band Grinder.

What will I miss most about playing hockey in Detroit? That's simple. The fans. From the day-to-day coffee stop or gas station conversation to the people who say hello on the street or ask for an autograph at the checkout, there are no greater fans than those in Detroit.

These are the great things about my time as a Red Wing that I will always remember no matter where I go. Thank you to all of you. But please don't shed a tear 'cause it's over -- crack a smile 'cause it happened, and no one can ever take that away. I'll always be a Red Wing at heart, and Detroit will always be my home.

Much love to you all,

Darren McCarty, Red Wings No. 25
Farewell, Darren. Keep in touch!

No comments: