McCarty isn't singing the blues

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Belting out tunes instead of opponents isn't the worst way to spend an enforced idleness, says Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings. But he'd rather be rocking on the ice and rolling in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

McCarty, 32, is front man for the garage rock group Grinder and as such might have the most unusual employment of all the NHL's locked-out players.

He's looking forward to his second visit to London's Call the Office on May 20, but his first winter off skates in decades leaves him with the feeling that he'd much rather be some place battling toward the Western Conference championship.

"I love (the rock gigs) but the winter has been a bummer without hockey," he said. "I hope something gets done and we're at training camp in September."

Once he got to Detroit's training camp in Traverse City, Mich., three years ago, McCarty and Grinder did a show at one of the city's bars. His teammates turned up and the ribbing was unmerciful.

"I tend to do things a little outside the norm, so I open myself up to (teammates' wisecracks). I've got a pretty thick skin."

He must. His hairstyle is Mohawk at the moment.

The band's name comes from the Grinder Line, which comprises McCarty, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby.

Draper has said his linemate's musical interest is merely an extension of his personality and playing style, which is to go full-out.

"We've done about 50 shows and usually, it wouldn't be any," McCarty said. "We're just doing our second album. I've been able to concentrate on the band. You make the best of it. I want to play hockey but there's sometimes a silver lining."

His style? "It's stripped-down rock 'n' roll with a little bit of punk," says the three-time Stanley Cup winner. He has said it is much like his robust playing style with "loud, hard, screaming stuff.

"The way I play hockey is the way I play on stage."

He has done some skating, most of his ice time confined to helping his eight-year-old son's team practices in Detroit. When there were glimmers of a breakthrough in stalled bargaining talks, McCarty and other Red Wings briefly began to work out in earnest.

His other profession has kept him on the road. Grinder has performed as far west as Las Vegas and Los Angeles and south to Florida, as well as around Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Ontario.

The band has even played Russia. McCarty played in former teammate Igor Larionov's farewell game and Grinder jammed such classics as Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama in a Moscow pub.

Hockey is never far away.

"We run into lots of fans," McCarty said. "Earlier, the draw was more hockey fans but now it's more about the music. But everyone wants to talk hockey -- when are we coming back and all that."

The silver lining McCarty spoke of has been obvious in one sense. The McCarty Cancer Foundation, which he founded in 1997, is an important fundraiser for research. Had he been playing hockey and not the bistros and bars, cancer research would have been out a considerable amount of money.

It has raised about $3 million. A percentage of all Grinder's shows, McCarty sports appearances and card-signing sessions go to the foundation he started after his father died of multiple myeloma cancer in 1999.

Tomorrow, the Wings are helping publicize his fund-raiser in suburban Detroit's Shelby Township.

There's more funding to come. Grinder's first CD, Gotta Keep Movin,' is a two-cover, five-original work that is moving well. The second, not yet named, is an 11-track production with 10 originals and one cover.


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