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10/24/2018, 8:45am EDT
By Mike Ross

Cindy Eccles (Earth-Life Studios)

This week’s Senior Spotlight is on River Ridge goaltender Daniel McCarthy. Daniel was born in Georgia, everything changed for Daniel when he was just four years old. His father, a proud member of the United States Army Rangers was relocated to Japan. As strange as it sounds, this is where Daniel would feel the ice beneath his feet for the first time “I just remember being a little kid and my dad took me to a big rink in Japan. He held my hand while I skated. I just had my skates and a helmet on. It is one of the first memories I have.” At the age of 6, Daniel and his family relocated again, this time to Edmonton, Alberta Canada. As to be expected, the passion that was ignited in Japan, grew even bigger as the McCarthy family planted roots in the heart of the great white north. It was there in Edmonton where Daniel first played organized hockey “That’s when I truly began to love and learn about the game of hockey. The town we lived in was so small that the mayor of our town sharpened the skates.

That is the quintessential definition of your tax dollars at work!” I personally have never had to the chance to talk to someone who started their playing career in Canada, so you better believe I took this opportunity to see how things are run differently in Canada compared to how things are taught in the USA. “I started playing at the age seven and the beginner playing level up there is called the initiation. It is basically their version of Learn to Play. That’s when I fell in love with playing goalie. At that age group, they play three, 20-minute periods where every kid got the opportunity to play every position. Once I got that goalie stick in my hand, I never wanted to put it down and once it came time to move up into the next skill group, where they provided pads for us to play in, I was always the first player to raise their hand to put them on.”

Growing up, Daniel played an array of sports. Basketball, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse; nothing did the trick for him. When it comes down to it he is a hockey player, a hockey player, and a hockey player. He lives and breathes the game like nothing you have ever seen. I ask him relatedly what he does outside of hockey and all he could do is laugh. “For fun, I play hockey, or I am working out trying to get into better shape for hockey.” Folks, I pressed him, I asked about hanging out with friends or going out or playing video games and you’ll probably guess what he said about that. “I don’t have time for anything else but hockey.” I think it is safe to say Daniel likes hockey a little bit.

Cindy Eccles (Earth-Life Studios)

You might ask, what is next for Daniel? I hope you are comfortably sitting down for this because it involves hockey. “My goal after graduating high school is to play Tier 2 juniors, I’d like to play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and pretty much go from there. If I can play in the NAHL for a year or two and perform well, I believe I would be able to go play in college. That’s my goal because my parents have supported me and my sisters throughout our lives, I really want to be able to say that I helped pay or even get my college paid for.

On the topic of family, he shared a funny story with me involving his mom, “It was her birthday, my dad was out of town. I went the morning and whole day without saying anything to her. I kind of had to be a jerk because I was setting it all up for when she came home. On the kitchen table, I put a nice card, some candies, some chocolates, and a few gift cards! She was really surprised, and it was awesome. I love my mom.”

Cindy Eccles (Earth-Life Studios)

That sounded like a very happy moment for Daniel, so I, of course, had to ask the follow-up, what is the happiest moment of your life you can think of that is not hockey related. Folks, we sat in a room of silence for about 2-3 minutes before he started to laugh because all he wanted to do was talk about hockey. I caved, I said alright buddy, what is your favorite or happiest moment in hockey thus far into your life. “We had the Hockey Night in Boston tournament recently for my travel team and as a team, we went into knowing we were not very prepared and even our coaches were honest about it. The coaches simply told us to play our game and whatever happens, happens. Well, guess what. We only lost one game throughout the tournament, wound up in the championship game, the game was zero to zero at the end of the third. Over-time became double over-time and then we went into a shootout and we won. It was awesome, who knew that playing like you had nothing to lose was such an easier way to play. We were so relaxed, and it paid off. It is also very motivating at every tournament we go to that nobody really respects any of the Florida teams. It is a great feeling to prove all of the wrong.”

Throughout the interview, Daniel referenced the head coach of his travel team, Fred Eaton, as someone who has really inspired him as well as made him a better player. So of course, I reached out to Coach Eaton for a comment. “Daniel is one of the hardest working goalies around, his preparation leading up to a game is second to none. I've had the pleasure to coach Daniel last season with my 18AA Flames and my current team the 18AAA Alliance, where Daniel is our starting goalie. This was not handed to him, he earned it with his commitment on and off the ice. Everyone says "goalies are a different breed" well I do agree with this because Daniel is. He does not settle for anything less than giving it his all every time he's on the ice, whether at practice, warming up prior to a game, and during the game.”

Cindy Eccles (Earth-Life Studios)

Daniel has played in the LHSHL for the past four years. He says throughout his time involved that the competition has grown immensely, and he hopes that in years to come or for the next generation of players that they take it more seriously. “I just wish I could go back and try harder in my developmental years, do one or two things differently.”  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the player who lives and breathes the game of hockey is so self-aware that he wishes he could go back in time so that he could train harder and play more. Which I personally believe is impossible unless he finds a way to add more hours to the day which also seems impossible. Let me go on the record by saying I will never doubt this young man. He is driven, and he knows what he wants. I wish Daniel nothing but the best of luck in the next chapter of his life, which as we know, will most likely involve hockey. Who knows, maybe he’ll come back and coach one of our LHSHL teams.

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