Written in 2008

Before I go any further, let me say most emphatically, that I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and a rabid one at that. The Pens’ loss in the Stanley Cup Finals still pains me so much that I cry if I dwell on it too much. Having said that, I wanted to share something that’s been percolating inside my brain for weeks. And if you already know the story, please move on, by all means. Like I said, this has been percolating in my brain and I need to get it out.

I call this blog “Redemption”, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about healing. It’s about friendship. And it’s about the glory of second chances.

It’s about Darren McCarty of the Red Wings. Any Detroit fan (and probably many NHL fans) know his story. I’m not going to go into details because that’s not really what makes this story so special. What really reaches out to me, is how teammate Kris Draper refused to give up on McCarty. From the accounts that I’ve seen and read, Kris reached out to Darren when others would have turned away. Darren had truly hit rock bottom. No wife. No kids. No house. No Red Wings memorabilia. They were all gone- either from frustration (wife and kids) or from bankruptcy (everything else). A once-stellar player who had helped lead his team to Stanley Cup Victories in 1997, 1998 and 2002 was truly a shadow of his former self.

The accounts that I’ve read say that Kris offered to help Darren get on track- that Darren worked out with Kris at Kris’ training facility. That Kris helped Darren get into rehab for a fourth (and final?) time. With encouragement and support, Darren started to pull his life back together. His wife came back with the kids. He got a gig playing minor league hockey – on a team owned by Draper. He seemed to be regaining his confidence and self respect. And then, the story got even better.
Darren asked Red Wings GM Ken Holland to give him another chance. Holland could have said what many other GM’s would have said: “Forget it. You blew your chance.” He didn’t. Ken Holland gave Darren McCarty that second chance. So, in November 2007, McCarthy suited up again as a Red Wing.

And had a season to remember.

Detroit had an amazing run. The post season was even better, culminating in a thrilling, 6-game Finals against my Penguins to win the Cup. And even as my heart broke for my favorite team, when I saw Darren McCarty lift that Cup over his head, I broke down and sobbed. I know what it’s taken for him to get to that glorious moment on the ice in Mellon Arena on June 4, 2008. I, too, have a story of redemption. I, too, have friends who have helped me on the road to healing. And I, too, have been given a second chance. I also know that I’m not the only one with such a story.
So, let’s go back to that moment: McCarty raising the Cup. It’s about so much more than winning a game, so much more than a uniform, or maybe even a team.

It’s about reclaiming your LIFE.

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