Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We'll See If McCarty Is Cut From Same Cloth As Chelios, Or From Redmond

Darren McCarty is making news, sort of, in attempting a hockey playing comeback, with Flint of the IHL. He hasn't played in an NHL game since April 2006, with the Calgary Flames -- who signed him after the Red Wings let him go following the 2004-05 lockout. He's had some off-ice trouble, and one wonders how much that contributed, in the long run, to his current career derailment. Regardless, he says he's going to give it another try. Maybe another NHL team will give him a call.

McCarty is 35 years old.

Chris Chelios has never had to comeback from anything to continue his NHL career. He's managed to keep gainful employment, first with Montreal, then with Chicago, and now in Detroit. It's fitting that he should only have played for Original Six teams in his 22-year (so far) NHL career. Very, very fitting.

Chelios will soon be 46 years old.

It's possible, though far from a slam dunk, that Chelios will challenge Gordie Howe's record for being the oldest man to lace up NHL skates. Howe was 52 years and six days old when he played his last regular season game for the Hartford Whalers in 1980. Howe then extended his career by about a week while the Whalers were getting ousted by Montreal in the playoffs.

But just the fact that we can even entertain the idea of someone approaching Howe in terms of longevity is amazing enough. And I wouldn't put it past Chelios to think about it, if he's still playing his irascible style of hockey a few years from now.

I just thought it was interesting that Darren McCarty is in the same sentence as the word "comeback", when he's 11 years Chelios's junior.

Chelios has not only played a long time, but he's done so without any major injuries

Today, the Red Wings announced that goalie Chris Osgood has been signed to a three-year extension, keeping him in Detroit thru the 2010-11 season, in which he'll turn 38 years old. His partner in net, Dominik Hasek, will soon be 43. All-World defenseman Nick Lidstrom, who along with Chelios helps keep the heat off Osgood and Hasek, will be 38 this year. So the Red Wings' two goalies and two of their best blueliners will be, by the end of the month, a combined 161 years old. I'll do the math for you: that's an average age of 40.25 years.

Mickey Redmond, reliable broadcaster, wasn't blessed with the same genes as the aforementioned quad of players. Redmond was plagued by back problems and didn't play a game past January 1976, when he was but 28. He tried it one last time in training camp of 1979, but he only lasted a few days before he was forced to quit. Also in camp that September was Frank Mahovlich, 42 and a couple years removed from his last game in the WHA. The Big M got into some exhibition games, but couldn't make the final cut.

The 40+ year-old NHL player is becoming more and more frequent. Better training regimens, nutrition, and technology have contributed to this. It should also be noted that flying around the country in a private team jet doesn't hurt, either. When Mahovlich broke into the NHL, for example, air travel in the league was still in its infancy. Many clubs still used the train to get from city to city.

Back in the day: McCarty taking care of business with Claude Lemieux

I wish McCarty well as he climbs his way back into the NHL, which is his ultimate goal. At 35, he's far from washed up, if he commits himself physically and mentally. Someone asked him at last night's Red Wings game if he'd consider playing for the Colorado Avalanche, a longtime rival, if they called.

"Beggars can't be choosy," he said. "I just want to play hockey somewhere, anywhere."

So did Redmond, and so did Mahovlich. But their bodies wouldn't allow it. Fortunately for Chelios, Lidstrom, Hasek, and Osgood -- and for us -- they've been blessed with strong, durable stock.

Almost as strong as, say, a certain man from Floral, Saskatchewan, who wore number 9.

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