In too deep

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Much as he did three years earlier when he told the world he'd been battling a substance-abuse problem, Darren McCarty stepped in front of the cameras yesterday to address another dirty secret.

A self-described adrenalin junkie who has never hid the fact his free time is often spent around the felt tables of Calgary's finest poker rooms, the 34-year-old Flames grinder admitted he was facing a deficit his hard work could no longer erase.

Rolling the dice on a lifestyle of excess purchased mostly on credit, the recovering alcoholic admitted he'd quietly amassed a shockingly out-of-control debt load that forced him to file for bankruptcy this week.

"Obviously, this is something I've been dealing with for the past year and it's something that's obviously a bit of an embarrassing situation," said the always-approachable McCarty, 34, who refused to answer questions following a brief, post-practice statement.

"But as things always are, there's more to it than what it seems and, because it's still ongoing, I'm not going to comment any more on it."

Too bad because surely there's a good story behind the 2004 Cadillac Escalade he listed as having "sunk in a body of water," the motor home he said burned to the ground or the $100,000 he owes the Bellagio in Vegas.

A happy-go-lucky sort whose charitable work, musicianship and on-ice grit made him one of the most popular Red Wings of all time, it's clear McCarty's makeup is one fuelled largely by addiction.

Unable to turn down a drink before one particular late-night party caused him to miss his own charitable golf tourney in 2003, McCarty was clearly unable to turn down creditors and friends who forever figured he was 'good for it.'

A 12-year NHL veteran who made $2.1 million (all figures US) in 2003, McCarty has since seen his salary drop steadily to this year's $800,000, which couldn't put a dent in the $6.2 million in debt he is carrying, according to papers filed in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit.

Included in the lengthy list of creditors are three casinos owed a total of $185,000, as well as several banks, credit card companies and friends.

It doesn't make him a bad person.

It just makes him a bad person to lend money to.

"As far as the gambling debts on there, not one cent was any type of sports betting," said McCarty, aware of the sensitivity of the topic following word of Rick Tocchet's alleged betting ring. "It's just something obviously I'm not proud of because it drags a lot of other people into this than I'd want. It's something I'm continuing to deal with."

Listing assets of $1.9 million that will soon be dispersed among creditors by a trustee, McCarty said he'd long ago informed Flames president Ken King and coach Darryl Sutter of his situation. King threw his support behind the forward yesterday and confirmed word of McCarty's gambling debts prompted the NHL to call with questions.

McCarty had to give 75% of the $540,000 severance to his ex-wife (and kids), putting him in a post-lockout hole so deep he had no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

Pal Kris Draper said yesterday he'd heard whispers of McCarty's debt but had no idea how deep it went.

Now everybody knows. The secret is out.

Be it with cards, real estate or his daily spending, McCarty gambled -- forgetting to bet with his head, not over it. Now all he can do is put his head down and get back into the game. Luckily, that's what he does best.


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