Dancing with the stars

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

Darren McCarty isn't the type to back down from a challenge.

Not even if the task at hand involves the fists of a 6-ft. 3-in., 245-pounder with cruel intentions like Georges Laraque.

Chris Simon is no longer a Calgary Flame, Krzysztof Oliwa is no longer in the league, Eric Godard toils for the farm club in Omaha and Brantt Myhres was a one-punch wonder.

Three other current Flames tip the scales at more than 210 lb. but it's McCarty who has become the team's default heavyweight, dropping gloves in both his first-period shifts Tuesday in Calgary's 6-1 rout over the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I'm not a heavyweight guy but I'll stand up for my team," said the battle-scarred veteran, who packs 210-lb. on his 6-ft. 1-in. frame. "I look at it like I'd rather be the guy to do it than somebody else have to do it.

"Situations arise and you're not gonna allow whoever your star guys or influential guys to get involved in that stuff. Especially if I'm out there to do something about it."

Laraque is the king of a dying breed as clubs steer more towards speed and grit in the post-lockout era. Donald Brashear hasn't dressed this season and Tie Domi retired. So when big Georges needed a dancing partner, it was up to McCarty to oblige.

"He mammoths me but I'm gonna be smart, try to get inside," said McCarty. "The object is not to get hurt. I didn't, so I pretty much solved that.

"I was in pretty good until I sorta slipped there."

True, McCarty avoided any damage -- something Myhres couldn't do when he succumbed to a pre-season punch from Laraque last fall and was never heard from again -- and made a statement by engaging the giant in a fight he knows he can't actually win.

"It's moreso for this dressing room. Let these guys know (I'm there for them)," said McCarty. "It's not about getting beat up. It's not about getting thrown around or anything like that. It's more or less standing up for your team.

"Back when I played in the minors or when I first came in, I fought all the heavyweights, anyway. Somebody told me a long time ago, it's not whether you win or lose, it's if you show up. Sometimes you've just got to show up."

His teammates certainly appreciate the effort.

"(McCarty's) probably got 10 times the amount of fights anyone else (on this team) has in his career so I think he'd be the guy that might have to stick his nose in there," said Flames d-man Andrew Ference. "Sticking your nose in against Laraque isn't any fun but he's crazy enough to do it."

Don't expect to see McCarty go toe-to-toe with all the remaining tough guys just for the sake of spectacle, though.

"I'm not going to go around and fight every heavyweight. It depends on the situation. Sometimes I'd say no," said McCarty, who faced Coyote Josh Gratton earlier in the opening frame Tuesday before Laraque grabbed a hold of him. "At that point it was the first period still and he was trying to make a statement so I've got to answer the bell."


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