THE NHL has been silent for nearly four months now, but crowds are still roaring for Red Wings fan favorite Darren McCarty. The dentally challenged star is the lead singer for Grinder, a five-man band named for McCarty's abrasive on-ice style ("grinding" in hockeyspeak) that has been playing shows from Detroit to L.A. "It's stripped down rock and roll, with a little bit of punk," says the three-time Stanley Cup winner, whom bandmates call Mac Jagger.
Grinder's album, Gotta Keep Movin--recorded at a studio owned by McCarty's pal, Motor City crooner Kid Rock (inset)--came out on Red Line Records in 2002, and the band played some summer gigs before the NHL season. These days McCarty, 32, tours in Grinder's 40-foot RV--which they drove 34 hours to play the Roxy in L.A. on Nov. 19. (Proceeds from gigs go to the McCarty Cancer Foundation; the winger's father died of cancer in '99.) McCarty, who lists Motorhead and Nirvana as influences, has also taken his music to Moscow, where he went last month to play in ex--Red Wing Igor Larionov's farewell game. McCarty scored a goal and also had memorable moments off the ice: Kid Rock tagged along on the trip, and the singers got on stage at a Moscow pub and jammed classics like Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama.
McCarty's locked-out life isn't all about being a rock star, though. He lives in suburban Detroit and most weekday mornings drives his kids, Griffin, 8, Emerson, 6, and Avery, 4, to school. (His fourth child, Gracyn, is an infant.) He also skates for several hours with teammates Chris Chelios and Kirk Maltby before Grinder gathers in a warehouse outside Detroit. McCarty, who began singing in drama club and met his bandmates through Wings trainer John Wharton, comes early to work with a vocal coach or write songs with bassist Jim Anders. ("Darren's tough to boss around," says Anders.) McCarty says Grinder's songs often reflect his own experiences. One of his favorites is Shooting Star, about the foolishness of believing your own hype. ("You're a shooting star, living for today./No matter who you are, you always fade away.")
Says McCarty, "Musically, I'm still learning."
Grinder hopes to release a second album in late March. "We want to take this as far as we can," says McCarty. "When you're playing a set, everyone's eyes are always on you and you have to make sure people have a good time. It's like being on a constant shift." --Andrea Woo