February 02, 2015
Kevin McCarthy was the Canucks captain in 1982, the year they made their unlikely run all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Beyond that, he was their most skilled defenseman, contributing strongly on the power play. The former Winnipeg junior standout had emerged as Vancouver's most skilled defenseman, especially on the power play.
The amazing thing about all that is due to a freak injury, suffered while sitting out the last game of the regular season, he never got to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs at all.
“It was the only game I missed that year. But because I missed that game, I decided to go to an optional practice between the season and the start of the playoffs and that’s when I broke my ankle and missed the whole run," he remembers. "To this day, that always sticks in my mind at playoff time It’s what I tell players: You may not have that many opportunities to get a shot at it and you have to treat each time as something really special, demanding every effort.”
Not only did he miss the playoffs, it cost him the captaincy of the team. Coach Roger Nielson gave decided to name Stan Smyl as the team's captain full time the following season. The move was controversial at the time, and McCarthy was hurt by the move.
McCarthy did play two more seasons in Vancouver but he was never at the same level as prior to the ankle injury and before he lost the captaincy.
McCarthy has gone on to a successful coaching career. He thanks an early mentor for much of his success.
“The game was different then. Travelling commercial we spent so much more time together, we got to know each other so much better than the players do today, and in Vancouver my mentor was Dennis Kearns. He was the veteran, the guy with kids, the guy who could balance the professional and personal lives perfectly. He really taught me a lot.”