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Sandman returns to Saddledome
Thurs. Dec. 3, 1998. The Calgary Sun.

- The Sandman Cometh.

For five seasons, Sandy McCarthy rode shotgun for the Calgary Flames. Now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the big, bad gunslinger rides back into town for tonight's game against the Flames with an attitude - and something to prove.

``I want to show them I can play the game and play on a regular shift,'' said McCarthy, making his first visit to the Canadian Airlines Saddledome since being traded to the Lightning in March for Jason Wiemer. ``I've been playing 15 minutes a game here and making good plays but they're just not getting finished.''

Depending on who you talk to, McCarthy was either run out of town by a management team that refused to allow him to be anything but a goon, or because he was an underachieving complainer who could fight, but not play.

His departure was acrimonious. Just last week a Flames management type opined that McCarthy is ``probably 250 pounds, lazing on a beach in Tampa.''

The knock on McCarthy was that he was lazy and selfish.

``I don't care what any Flames management guys say,'' McCarthy said. ``They always have to have an excuse for not giving you what you want. They said I was out of shape, but last year I worked out all summer and was in good shape.''

The low point for McCarthy last season was being accused of uttering an on-ice racial slur to Florida Panthers forward Peter Worrell, who is black. Those accusations later proved groundless, but McCarthy's reputation still suffered.

``That really bugged me, because anyone who knows me knows I would never say anything like that,'' McCarthy said. ``The truth came out. As soon as they found out my dad was black, it all stopped. They said I was giving him monkey gestures in the box. You know how I like to call guys chicken when they don't want to fight. I give them the chicken wings thing. I don't know how they figured out that meant I was calling him a monkey or ape. My dad was howling when he heard about the accusations.''

Statistically, both McCarthy and Wiemer have made little impact with their new teams. McCarthy hasn't scored with the Lightning, while Wiemer has just two goals this season.

However, Wiemer has developed into a solid two-way centre. As for McCarthy, Calgary fans will see for themselves if he's improved his game.

``I want to come back and have a good game. Everyone does when they are traded,'' McCarthy said. ``The coaching staff here believes I can do the job. If I wasn't getting scoring chances or making things happen, I wouldn't be playing. I told Jacques (coach Demers) that if I'm not doing the job, I don't want to be taking someone else's ice time.''

McCarthy, a fan favourite in Calgary, is anxious to see how the fans react, but he won't hesitate to drop the gloves.

``I have no enemies in Calgary but I fought my best friend (New York Islanders forward Gino Odjick), so I'd fight anybody. Everybody in the league knows I'm not going to pick and choose. I'll fight whoever starts stuff or the tough guy.''

Wiemer, a former first-round draft pick of the Lightning, is also excited.

``Any time you get traded or when someone gives up on you or feels you're not capable, you want to show them you can play,'' Wiemer said. ``I think they gave up on me prematurely and I'm looking forward to sticking it to them.

``Maybe they had too many expectations or maybe I was mishandled. The bottom line is that I'm happy they moved me. Right now I don't know what they think, but it's clearly good for me to be in Calgary.'' (Calgary Sun)