Mirl Arthur “Red” McCarthy (March 12, 1930 – 1995), was a Canadian sportsperson, sport and recreation administrator, ice hockey player, founder and co-inventor of the sport of ringette, and for a time, a professional skating star and barrel jumper.
Born in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario and raised in Sudbury, he grew up to be a star athlete in baseball, football, track and field, and ice hockey. His hockey career included stops with Toronto St. Michael’s College, Barrie Flyers, Boston Olympics, Nelson B.C. Maple Leafs, Sudbury Caruso Miners, and Sudbury Wolves of the Canadian Senior Hockey League. McCarthy played in three ice hockey leagues over the course of his career: the Ontario Hockey League, the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, and the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
At the Chicago World’s Fair, in Chicago, Illinois, United States, McCarthy was photographed participating in barrel jumping, a discipline of speed skating, at the Black Forest Village.
In 1954, at the age of 24, he became recreation director of Espanola, Ontario and held the position for forty-one years. He became actively involved in all aspects of Espanola’s recreational programs and was instrumental in forming the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) Junior A Hockey League, and the Espanola Eagles Junior A hockey team. He coached the team for 18 years, and then managed it for four more.
A key person in the development of the sport in the sport of ringette in its earliest days. In 1963, McCarthy’s close friend, Sam Jacks was dedicating a lot of his time to developing youth activities. In the early 1960’s he wanted to develop an on-ice skating game for females. McCarthy had been present at a meeting when Sam Jacks brought up the fact that there was a need for a new winter team sport for girls. After Jacks’s presentation, McCarthy volunteered to experiment with the new sport in Espanola where he was the recreation director and arena manager. Equipped with Jack’s basic idea, McCarthy then created the first set of rules for the sport of ringette. McCarthy also set up the first “game”, of ringette which took place at the Espanola Arena in the fall of 1963 between Espanola high school girls who had played high school ice hockey. These rules were then presented at a NORDA meeting at Moose Lake Lodge in Onaping, Ontario, on January 19–20, 1964. Today the title of “birthplace of ringette” is shared by both North Bay, Ontario, and Espanola, Ontario, though Espanola is still recognized as the “Official Home of Ringette”. Red was also the responsible for the individual stick colours formerly used to identify positions.
Red’s impact on the sport is still heavily felt across Canada. In his hometown, an Athletic complex in Espanola named the “Red McCarthy Memorial Athletic Fields” were named, as was the Red McCarthy Memorial Trophy is the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s award given annually to the “Coach of the Year. Ringette continues to grow annually and Red’s influence and passion for the sport is still changing lives to this day.