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Ahead of the 25th anniversary of Fight Night at the Joe, Andrew Berkshire sat down with Detroit Red Wings legend Darren McCarty to talk about that brawl and other famous moments from his NHL career. 

In this video, they discuss: 

  • His Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997
  • The Brawl in Hockeytown between the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche
  • His rivalry with Detroit 'nemesis' Claude Lemieux 

You were on the ice when the buzzer went for your first Stanley Cup in 1997. Was that a coincidence or did Scotty Bowman put you on the last shift?

Oh, no, that was Scotty. The most pride I have is that he had the trust in me to be out there whatever. Look at all the Hall of Famers I've played with and been around, but my Hall of Fame moment is that after Scotty retired, and after we won the Cups, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch were having a big party. Scotty Bowman walked up and he says to me and he says: “Hey, D-Mac, I wanted to let you know, one of the things I regret the most is that I didn't tell my players how much I appreciate 'em. You're my second favourite right winger ever to play for me next to Guy LaFleur,” and he scurried off.

So, I got that going for me, and Guy LaFleur, the flower. Legend. He won four Cups first, so I got to accept it, and plus, he smoked more packs a day than I ever could. To me, that's all that mattered. Boom, mic drop. That's it. It's the appreciation that I always had from everybody in that organisation of what I did.

Game 1 of the 2002 Conference Final against Colorado, tied 2-2 in the third period. Darren McCarty goes out and scores a natural hat trick on Patrick Roy. Obviously, at that point, you guys must have been thinking we've got this, right?

We got game one, that's it. You never look ahead. You knew the war it was, so it was just about sticking to the attrition. I scored a lot of goals on Patrick Roy's high glove. You go back to ‘97 playoffs, breakaway, high glove. As a right-handed shooter, that's my spot.

I love Adam Foote because he's such a warrior and obviously as you get older there's this respect – but man I gave him a close shave. He almost took that one in the face, and there's no way Roy saw the first one. But the second goal I scored, two on one down the wing, slap shot, high glove, was my favourite. Other than the Cup-clinching one, that was my favourite goal I ever scored. Just because I'd do that shot every day. Hockey players, we don't say we're superstitious, but we have routines, and my routine was to hit that shot before I left the ice after every practice.

I almost thought the third one was the most impressive because you were forechecking as well. So, not only did you score the goal, you created the situation that made the goal happen.

Yeah, next-gen stats, they didn't have them then, but I would have got the takeaway, the pressure, the goal and everything else. That’s something that the Grind Line took pride in – obviously we wanted to shut down and frustrate your Forsbergs, your Sakics, your top line - but when our top guys were struggling or frustrated then we had to step up, and we all could, and we all did at different times. That game was just an example of that.

And to fast forward, but game seven is when we blew 'em out. We beat them 7-0 and Roy retired. We were up 4-0 in the first period. That's the quietest, and I think the most fearful our locker room had ever been, because we were on eggshells. We didn't expect that, we expected a 0-0 or something. What's going on? So, when Freddie Olausson scored to make it 5-0, less than five minutes into the second period, that's when the relief came. You're just looking around going, is this for real?

Speaking of knockouts, in your professional opinion, who won the goalie fights between Roy and Vernon and Roy and Osgood?

Old P Roy is 0-2. But I'll give him this, we're happy didn't get his hands on Dom [Hasek]. We're happy that Dom stepped on the stick. That was the dumbest thing,  I would have expected him to get fed. But no, Bernie slipped him, caught him with the left, hung in there. I mean, just the fact that these two old guys went at it. And listen, I might not be the biggest Patrick Roy fan, but I respect the player. The same way that I don't respect the player that Claude Lemieux is, but I respect the person Claude Lemieux is.

Have you watched Claude’s son at all? Brendan Lemieux?

The snapping turtle? Yeah, he’s biting kids too, right? Listen, I don’t have much respect for Evander Kane, but that cold cock, that was right down the pipe, that was a well-executed left, and those are the ones that send messages. Those ones not only hurt, but that’s a message sender. To Brendan, I mean, what do you want? He’s a Lemieux, he plays like a Lemieux, you gotta treat him like a Lemieux. I don’t know the kid off the ice, but I know that on the ice there’s a bunch, there’s probably about eight guys around the league that I’d have an issue with if I played. But I don’t play anymore so I have no issue, and plus they changed the rules.

Is there anyone in the NHL today that you would say is the Darren McCarty of 2022?

I think that this kid’s got more talent, and he plays top minutes, but I’m a little bit smarter than he is, I don’t do dumb things. I love Tom Wilson. But you have to understand the kid plays top minutes, he skates, he’s physical, just sometimes I question some of his decision making. But I’ve always loved him, he played junior hockey here, and he’s such a great kid. He’s such a great dude. It’s just that some guys, they get on the ice and there’s an alter ego.

You can build a franchise around one of these Red Wings legends. Are you going Yzerman, Lidstrom or Fedorov?

Well, in today’s NHL, I gotta go Lidstrom. I gotta take not only the leadership, but I gotta take my 20-year, Hall of Fame, Norris Trophy winner. If you notice that the new centremen, logging the minutes is that D-man. It’s the Victor Hedman, it’s that defenseman. If it was back in my day, in the ’90s, it would obviously be Steve Yzerman. But the evolution of that two-way player, the leader, you’ve got to build around that.

You’re not going wrong with any of those guys, it’s just putting your team together differently. And if I’m playing in 2022, and I got a Nick Lidstrom, that’s like having your goalie. That’s like having a Martin Brodeur or a Patrick Roy, or a guy that’s going to be that career franchise player.

Favourite teammate throughout your career?

You know what, Drapes [Kris Draper] is my big brother, and Drapes is the one that’s responsible, but Ozzy [Chris Osgood] and I came in together. Ozzy’s the prankster, Ozzy’s the little brother, Ozzy is one of my favourite humans to be around.

Favourite fight in your career, not counting Fight Night at the Joe?

Matthew Barnaby, in front of the net in Colorado. Because he’s one of those guys you always want to get your hands on, and I got my hands on him. I got him pretty good.

Favourite Colorado Avalanche player that you played against?

Joe Sakic. Easy. That’s the whole thing, it’s the hierarchy of the kings and the castle. The respect that Yzerman gets by the Colorado fans is the same respect that Sakic gets by the Detroit fans. The fact is, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg hate Detroit fans, just like Detroit fans hate Adam Foote and Claude Lemieux. But we respect them, just like Colorado respects Stevie. As much as it would press the lines, and what Claude did took it over the line, there were some parameters to it. Even though there was that excess violence and stuff like this, there was an old school, throwback parameter. You’re not touching Yzerman, and we’re not going after Sakic. But your Darren McCarty’s will be in there, and you’re gonna take the shots.

Can you build your all-time NHL team?

Wow. Gosh. I could do that with former teammates. It’s almost like you’ve seen what it would be already. I would go Shanahan, Fedorov and Yzerman. We’ve seen that before. I’d put in Lidstrom and Konstantinov, and then I’d throw Ozzy in net. Listen, the biggest joke out there is the fact that there is even an argument that he’s not a Hall of Famer. When you’ve got 400 wins, you’ve backstopped two Cups and you’ve won a third as a backup, I mean to me it’s just the bias of the team in front of him. But go watch our games, go watch any of them. The toughest job in sports is to be a quarterback, or a goaltender in Detroit. So, that’s my choice.