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What’s Next: Darren McCarty

The A4C What’s Next blog is a series of articles profiling Athletes for CARE Ambassadors, their journey to becoming the world-class athletes we know them as today, and the life lessons learned along the way.

Through the eyes of many Darren McCarty has lived a pretty interesting and amazing life. It all began growing up in Leamington, Ontario, located less than 40 miles from Joe Louis Arena, where he would one day play hockey. He developed a motivation to excel in sports at a young age. Darren would often go to work with his Step Dad and quickly realized he did not want to work there the rest of his life. His parents instilled a drive in him to always do everything to the best of his ability.

He may have not always been considered the most talented player on his team, but no one ever outworked him. While many boys in Canada grow up dreaming of one day playing hockey, Darren’s first love was baseball and the Detroit Tigers. At the age of 15 he was faced with a decision of focusing on baseball or hockey. He ended up choosing hockey because he struggled figuring out how to effectively hit a curveball. As it turns out that was a wise choice.

There were certainly doubters along the way. His 9th grade math teacher even joked to the class he would be back to school within 2 weeks after he found out Darren had moved away to focus on playing hockey. Darren definitely got the last laugh in this story. He would soon be drafted by his hometown team the Detroit Red Wings. Known as the Enforcer, he was able to help lead the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup trophies.

Darren has always considered himself an entertainer. Growing up he was always the life of the party. Since his retirement from hockey, he continues to find the spotlight whether as the front man for a rock band or now his current role as a stand-up comedian/story teller. Darren said that each stage of life has prepared him for the next one.

He has also found the time to write his autobiography. In his book, My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star, he opened up about his past struggles of marriage, bankruptcies, and alcoholism in hopes of helping others avoid some of the same pitfalls. During these dark times in his life he found renewed hope and purpose. Darren states, “I cannot change my past, but I want to help change someone else’s future.” He credits his wife, Sheryl for his changed outlook on life through her acceptance and loyalty. She taught him how to love himself again. Darren is now dedicated to paying it forward to the next generation who is coming after him.

Transitioning to life after sports can be difficult sometimes. Sports can be ones sole identity so once those lights go off for the last time one can become frustrated, stuck, and lost not knowing what to do next. I spoke with Darren recently and he shared these three important life lessons with me.

Know Who YOU Are

Self-awareness takes away the pressure and the guilt of trying to be someone else. No one knows you like you do. Often times we find ourselves wearing masks and hiding behind something because we feel we do not measure up. Why do we do that? We need to stop lying to ourselves and simply be proud of who we are and what we offer the world. No one is perfect so why do we feel like we have to be. Learn to be vulnerable. Learn to be comfortable in our own skin.

Learn to be YOU.

Creating a Strong Support System is Vital

Darren emphasized having a support system. Surrounding yourself with people you can trust and lean on during good times and tough times is important. No one likes to ask for help. Why is that? Pride can hold us back when simply asking for help allows us to move forward. Surround yourself with people you can learn and grow with. Stay curious. Never stop learning. As an athlete having a locker room full of like-minded people can be encouraging and supportive, but what happens once your career is over? Who do you turn to? Darren is thankful for the Athletes for Care community. He says they have become his new locker room. No matter where you find yourself in life there are always people willing to help. You are not alone.

Define Your Purpose so You Can Plan Your Legacy

Lastly, what will your legacy be? How do you want people to remember you both on and off the field? Once you are out of the spotlight, what is your purpose? How can you give back? Sports has the ability to teach us about life and about ourselves. How can you translate those lessons to your next stage in life? Just because the final whistle has blown on your sports career, the next chapter in your life is just beginning. Darren’s new focus is now on wanting to let others know they still have options and a choice. He is using his new platform to continue to make a difference in this world and leave a lasting mark that will keep on going.

The A4C What’s Next blog series is written by Jonathan Palk, a licensed professional Life Coach. Mr. Palk works with athletes as they transition throughout their career and beyond helping them realign their gifts, passions, and values while discovering any obstacles keeping them from reaching their true potential so they can continue to Live ALL in and Play ALL out. For more info please visit or by calling 865.333.4625.

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