Trail native Steve McCarthy will take over as assistant coach of the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets promoted McCarthy from his position as associate coach of Columbus’ American Hockey League affiliate Cleveland Monsters.
The former NHL defenceman replaces Sylvain Lefebvre as an assistant to head coach Brad Larsen after Lefebvre decided not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Under the NHL’s COVID-19 rules for the 2021-2022 season, all coaches and team staff that closely interact with players are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well,” club GM and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “We feel fortunate to have an outstanding coach join our club in Steve McCarthy, who has played in this league, won championships as a player and been an important member of our hockey operations department as an assistant coach in Cleveland.”
The 40-year-old former Trail Smoke Eater spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach with Cleveland. Prior to joining the Monsters, he enjoyed a 16-year playing career that included eight NHL seasons between 1999-2008.
Selected by Chicago in the first round, 23rd overall, in the 1999 NHL Draft, he registered 17 goals and 38 assists for 55 points with 168 penalty minutes in 302 career NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Thrashers.
“Steve has done a great job working with our young defencemen in Cleveland the past five years and is ready for this opportunity,” said Larsen in a release. “He is a really bright, young coach with a great work ethic and I’m excited about what he will bring to our staff.”
McCarthy also played seven seasons in the AHL, including his final season in 2015-16 with the Monsters, and spent several years in Europe with stints with ZSC Lions in Switzerland, TPS in Finland and Salavat Yulaev Ufa in Russia’s KHL.
Before turning pro, McCarthy played for his hometown Smoke Eaters in 1996-97, scoring 25 goals and 77 points in 57 BCHL games. It stands as the single season franchise record for most goals, assists and points by a defenceman and is tied for most assists by a rookie in a single season.
He then spent three-plus seasons with the Edmonton/Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League from 1997-2000, earning WHL East First All-Star Team honors with Kootenay in his final year. McCarthy also won a pair of bronze medals for Canada at the 2000 and 2001 IIHF World Junior Championships.