Islanders add former NHLer as assistant coach
They may have lost twice last weekend, but the Gananoque Islanders made a personnel move prior to those Provincial Junior Hockey League games that management believes will help the players both on and off the ice.
Last week the Islanders hired former National Hockey League all-star and longtime junior hockey coach Tom McCarthy, 58, as an assistant coach.
McCarthy was a minor hockey phenom and was chosen first overall by the Oshawa Generals in the 1977 Ontario Major Junior Hockey League Priority Selection from the North York Rangers of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, two picks ahead of Wayne Gretzky. The Rangers were at the time an affiliate of the Kingston Canadians and McCarthy actually scored his first major junior goal (Oct. 30, 1976, in a 7-3 loss to the Toronto Marlboros at Maple Leaf Gardens) as a member of the Canadians during a call-up.
He would go on to collect 93 points in 62 games as a rookie with the Generals in 1977-78 and then exploded the next season for 69 goals and 144 points. He was subsequently picked 10th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play seven seasons with the North Stars before being traded to the Boston Bruins. He spent one full season and part of the next with the Bruins before injuries drove him into retirement after the 1987-88 season. He scored 178 goals and 399 points in 460 NHL games.
Following his career, McCarthy ran with some shady characters and ultimately ran into trouble with the law. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana and spent five years in prison. During his time behind bars, McCarthy committed to turning his life around. He started a ball hockey league in prison and learned he was a pretty good hockey teacher.
As soon as he was released from prison, he began his coaching career. He coached midget hockey in hometown Mississauga for five years (1998-99 to 2002-03) before guiding tier II junior teams for the next 15 years in Huntsville, Trenton, North Bay and Espanola, and also had a brief stop in Romania in 2016.
Then came this season and a chance meeting with Islanders part owner and assistant coach Randy Casford and head coach Brian Begbie at the Kingston Voyageurs training camp. All parties came away impressed.
“We met at the Vees camp when Brian Begbie and I were working the benches. We all hit it off right away,” Casford said. “[Vees general manager-coach] Peter Goulet said he was a great guy and might be moving to Kingston...
“I learned about his past right away and also went home and watched the YouTube video of his interview on Hockey Night in Canada (www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxfvAlcD8hc). After hanging with Tom for a weekend and watching that video, it was quick learning that the person Tom is, is nothing but a loving and caring person who lives for helping kids and sharing his vast knowledge of the game.
“People make mistakes. It is what they do after that that shows their true character, and Tom has proven that whoever is around him becomes better. He is a differencemaker on and off the ice.”