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Each month the Smoke Eaters will highlight a former Smoke Eater and update you on where they are now. This month, Trail native, Steve McCarthy.

Smoke Eaters Career:

Played 1996-97 – 57 Games played – 25 Goals and 52 Assists.

McCarthy holds the single season franchise record for most goals, assists and points by a defenceman. He’s also tied for most assists by a rookie in a single season with Chris Bonvie. McCarthy was named BCHL’s Best Defenceman in the Interior, as that time the award was given to a player in each division.  After spending one year with the Smoke Eaters McCarthy began an illustrious WHL career where he played with the Edmonton Ice, who became the Kootenay Ice, where he put up 128 points in 154 games. After being drafted 23rd overall in the 1999 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, McCarthy returned to the WHL to captain the Kootenay Ice during the 99-00 season, where he won a Championship and finished second in the Memorial Cup.

Q: When you look back at your Smoke Eaters Career, what moments would you highlight or be your best memories?

A: “Wow – that was a long time ago! I joined the Smoke Eaters in 1996 as a fifteen-year-old. Being a local kid I was able to live at home with my parents and brother, and be around family and friends which was great. As a kid, to play for the Smoke Eaters was a really big thing – there’s a lot of history there, I was so proud each night to play in front of my hometown crowd. What I remember most were the fans, the community support as well as being surrounded by really good players. Our captain back then was Corey Bell, he went out of his way to take care of me. I’ve been all around the hockey world, played hockey in different leagues and teams and he was the best captain I’ve ever had. Our GM back then, Glen Sanders was awesome. I remember having a great year too, 77 points, or at least I remember my mom always telling me I played well. Also if I remember correctly the team hadn’t made the playoffs in a while; the team struggled for a bit and 1996-97 was a really good year for us. We made the playoffs and played Penticton in the first round. The excitement in the city was palpable!” – Steve McCarthy

The Smoke Eaters would beat Penticton that year but fall to the Vipers in the semifinals. McCarthy went on to play over 300 NHL games spending time with the Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks. He also played 191 AHL games. In 2011-12 McCarthy joined ZSC Lion of the Swiss National League (NLA) where he played alongside current Smoke Eaters head coach Jeff Tambellini, where they won a championship in 2012. McCarthy scored the championship clinching goal. He also won a championship in 2014.

Q: Where has life taken you since you finished playing hockey and did it play a role in where you are now in life?

A: “After I finished playing, I was fortunate to find a coaching opportunity with the Cleveland Monsters, the team I had just won a Calder Trophy with in 2016. The best part about hockey is the relationships and friendships you make. Through those conversations with management in Cleveland during my last season of playing, I let them know I would love to stay with the Blue Jackets organization in some capacity. I’ve been an assistant coach here in Cleveland ever since and still love coming to the rink everyday.”

McCarthy has been an assistant for the past four seasons with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. It’s been 24 years since McCarthy last suited up for the Smoke Eaters and with that comes 24 years of knowledge to pass on to those who now don the historic crest.

Q: If you could pass on some advice to today’s group of Smoke Eaters, what would it be? What is something you wish you had known when you were still playing?

A: There are a couple of things. The first is to take time to enjoy it, every step of the way. But enjoy both the success and the struggles; it’s about perspective and perseverance. Ultimately it’s really less about the wins, the losses, the points, the championship.. and more about the people. The good people you meet and interact with along the way. You have to remember to consciously live it. Young players also don;t always understand you’re going to have setbacks. Everyone tells you along the way that if you do this, this way, you’ll play in the NHL. Nobody talks about the tough times or the struggles or the mistakes and that those are okay. Believe in yourself but understand that the tough times are only going to make you stronger. It’s all part of the process. I wish I had known that back then; how hard it was truly going to be. That the hard times were coming, and you have to expect them and learn how to cope. Every level of hockey gets harder and harder but keep believing in yourself and keep going. There will be obstacles to overcome, where things aren’t fair and don’t go your way. Stick with it, surround yourself with good people. But also with people who will tell you what you need to hear, not always what you want to hear. Tackle  adversity head on and it will be over before you’re ready!”