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Idled NHL star busy rocking

PHOTO: Detroit Red Wings star Darren McCarty, center, and his band, Grinder, are performing in Marquette Dec. 4 at Upfront & Company.

By RENEE PRUSI Journal Sports Editor

MARQUETTE - Detroit Red Wings star Darren McCarty and his band, Grinder, are keeping busy during the National Hockey League lockout, touring to bring their "blue collar muscle and machine hard rock" music to fans around the country.

Marquette and two other Upper Peninsula communities are stops on the band's itinerary in early December.

"The band formed in 1997, the summer after the Wings won the (Stanley) Cup," said Reed Hurrell, Grinder's manager. "John Wharton, who was the Wings' trainer at the time, was looking to do a compilation album to benefit Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsaknov after their accident. John knew Billy (Reedy) from the band and he told Billy that Darren was interested in doing some singing."

The accident - a limousine crash just a week after the '97 Stanley Cup finals - injured several Wings and brought together many people to raise money toward their medical care. That included McCarty and the members of Grinder, with that union continuing to this day.

"They were a band that played out in the summertime," Hurrell said. "But with the lockout, things are a lot different. They are all making a real big commitment to the band. They are together three or four days a week and have been rehearsing and have been getting into the studio."

Grinder made a West Coast swing last week, playing in Las Vegas and in Los Angeles at the famed Roxy Club.

"These guys have played together for seven years now and things are going really well," Hurrell said. "We have found Wings fans everywhere we go. And the band is drawing people like (Detroit defenseman) Mathieu Schneider and some of his friends, who came out to see us while we were in L.A."

While the band released its first compact disc, "Gotta Keep Movin'" in 2002, Grinder has been working hard on its sound since that time, Hurrell said.

"'Gotta Keep Movin' is a really good CD, but it doesn't represent the band as it exists today," he said. "The band's sound has been formed in the last few months, really. It is a much more edgier rock sound."

In addition to vocalist McCarty and guitarist Reedy, the members of Grinder are James B. Anders, bass; Eric Miller, drums; and Eli Ruhf, rhythm guitar.

Grinder's U.P. stops include The Satisfied Frog in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday, Dec. 2; the Uphill 41 in Hancock on Friday, Dec. 3; and Upfront & Company in Marquette on Saturday, Dec. 4.

Grinder's visit to Marquette will include more than just an evening of "raw, thunderous Detroit rock'n'roll," though. McCarty's sponsoring an ESPN NHL 2K5 Tournament from 2 to 6 p.m. that same day at Upfront. It's open to all ages.

"The idea was to get in touch with the younger audience with a gaming session," Hurrell said. "The winner plays Darren in a final game and will receive Grinder merchandise and get his picture taken with Darren."

Grinder's music is featured on the videogame soundtrack, Hurrell said, and McCarty's involvement will grow even deeper for the next edition.

"While we were in California, Darren skated wearing a motion-capture suit. The suit helps capture his movements on the ice," Hurrell said. "In the 2006 edition of the game, the player motion will be Darren, with Marty Turco as the goalie."

The band was asked to record a rocking version of "Deck The Halls" for a movie called "Santa's Slay," a horror-comedy flick starring professional wrestler Bill Goldberg.

In all, Hurrell said, McCarty and the other members of Grinder are thrilled to be headed to the U.P.

"We hear there's a lot of buzz from our trip up there," he said. "We're really excited about it, too. Darren's commitment to the band is that this is a dream of his and now it's coming true."

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