By Jim Lennox

Most people never become sufficiently expert at any sport to play it professionally. Duffy McCarthy, whose name is familiar to you—if at all—because of his efforts on behalf of the Tomahawks, Toronto’s entry in the new National Lacrosse League, is expert at two. McCarthy is also a hockey player, this past season with the London Lions, a North American-staffed and -operated team based in England.

Last fall, McCarthy, 23, was nothing more than a hopeful rookie at the Detroit Red Wings training camp. “I thought I might be playing in the American League at first,” he says, “so I was really surprised when Ted Harkness signed me for two years and told me I was leaving for London.” After several weeks of practice in Detroit, the team left for England at the beginning of October. “Everyone was anxious to leave, but that feeling soon wore off. Within a month, some of the players wanted to go home.”

The Lions played in London for six weeks, then went on a European tour. “Travelling on the continent was the most enjoyable experience of the season,” recalls McCarthy. “We played in Germany, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, France. Switzerland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. What we played in was, well, different. In Grenoble, for instance, we used the arena from the ’64 Olympics; in other towns it could be anything from an old arena to an outdoor rink. My only real complaint was that I saw too many airports for my liking.”

By the time the team returned to London, it had a modest following. “Some people came to see us play out of curiosity. England doesn’t see much ice hockey. Some people really fell in love with the sport. There was one whole family from Pakistan who’d never seen it before, yet they were at every home game.” Despite the relative success of the Lions, though, McCarthy predicts a dismal future for pro hockey in Europe, “I don’t think the Lions will be in London next year, and I don’t think you’ll see a pro league in Europe before 1976.”

That’s not to say that McCarthy was contrary: he enjoyed the year and considers the season to have been his best since his days with Kitchener Rangers of the OHA Junior A league. And he earned a decent living. “The majority of the players in Europe,” he says, “are making excellent wages. Some also get bonuses— cars, gas allowances, free lodgings. I was making a good professional wage and had no real expenses.”

McCarthy returned from Europe to learn he’d been drafted—for lacrosse purposes—by the Tomahawks. “I was happy to hear I’d be playing for Bishop again,” he says. “I hope someday to go into coaching, and you can’t learn more about box lacrosse than you do with him.” Last year McCarthy played for the Bishop-coached Windsor Warlocks. “I didn’t want to play for Brampton, so I went down to Windsor and liked what I say. Bish got me ice time at one of the arenas so I could skate, and he put me on the Lloyd Percival weight training program. I really couldn’t refuse to play.”

Under Bishop’s guidance, McCarthy developed into the leader of the Windsor offense. Says Jim Hinkson, now a teammate on the Tomahawks and last season a player-coach with Windsor,  “Duffy is the finest point man on a power play I’ve ever seen. Some pointmen slow the ball down and therefore make the power play ineffective. Duffy has the ability to move the ball quickly, pass with pinpoint accuracy and shoot with deadly efficiency.”

The first few NLL games have confirmed Hinkson’s assessment. McCarthy scored the team’s first-ever goal on opening night at the Montreal Forum. In a return match here at Maple Leaf Gardens, he led Toronto to a victory, scoring four times before leaving the game with an injury. No question about it: in the 16 years that have passed since McCarthy first picked up a lacrosse stick in a Malton schoolyard, he has become one of the finest pointmen and centres in the game.

So where does his future lie? “Well, I certainly hope the pro lacrosse league catches on.” McCarthy considers himself a better lacrosse player than hockey player, and he opts— sentimentally at least—toward his first sports love. But he’s keeping an open mind. “I guess I’ll go into either hockey or lacrosse exclusively someday,” he says, “depending on which career is more promising. Right now I’m enjoying playing both.”

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