Dino Ciccarelli's arrival in the NHL was delayed due to a severely broken leg suffered in junior hockey. Still, Dino was only 20 when he played his first game for the Minnesota North Stars on Dec. 12, 1980, at Met Center.
Tom McCarthy was already in his second season, having reached the North Stars as a 19-year-old in the fall of 1979, the same year he was taken No. 10 overall in the NHL draft.
"We were the same age, but he had the experience and kind of took me under his wing,'' Ciccarelli said. "For a while, I lived at his place.''
Single? "Yeah, 19-, 20-year-old bachelors,'' he said. "And we went to the Stanley Cup Finals that spring … my first year, Tommy's second. It was a great introduction to the NHL.''
Neal Broten signed with the North Stars at the end of the Gophers' 1980-81 season. He played a couple of regular-season games and then joined the playoff run.
"The first person to come over and shake my hand and show me around the locker room was Tommy McCarthy,'' Broten said. "He was the best guy — the kindest person — you were going to find.''
Ciccarelli and Broten were both stunned to find out that McCarthy, their linemate for some dynamic times with the North Stars, had died in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Wednesday at age 61.
"[Coach] Glen Sonmor didn't put us together right away, but he did that starting with the 1981-82 season,'' Broten said. "Tommy was on the left, with all that skill, and with the best backhand in hockey, and Dino was on the right, going to the front of the net.
"Couldn't have asked for better wingers. We had a few good years together.''
Ciccarelli, on the phone from his home in Detroit, said: "Tommy was such a talent that he was taken in front of Wayne Gretzky in the major junior draft in Canada. Big, lanky, 6-foot-3, great skater, and he could handle the puck like no one else.
"I had Neal as a center who was so creative, and I had Tommy with those skills on the left. I never had the puck.
"And you know what? I didn't want it. I just was trying to get to the net, find a hole down there, and wait for one of those two to make a play.''
Ciccarelli had been informed through a reporter's text of McCarthy's death, and was upset when he called back.
"I can't remember when I last saw Tommy,'' Ciccarelli said. "I knew he had been coaching junior players in Canada. This is a sad day for me, to hear he's gone, and way too young."
Ciccarelli paused and said: "I played later with Sergei Fedorov in Detroit. On his bad days, he was a good player. And on his good days, he was the best player in the league.
"That was Tommy McCarthy on our North Stars teams. On his bad days, he was a good player for us. But on those good days, there was no one better on our team.''