Dale McTavish joined the OHL's Peterborough Petes at the age of 17 in 1989-90 and in his rookie year scored 26 goals and 61 points in 66 games. Despite putting up solid offensive numbers, he was not selected in the NHL Entry Draft that summer. The following year his points production fell by 13 points, which seemed to scare off the NHL teams again. Entering his third year with the Petes, McTavish was looking to establish himself as a strong offensive contributor and while he scored 56 points in 60 games, it was not the kind of numbers NHL scouts were looking for. McTavish was invited back to Peterborough in 1992-93 as the team's overage player. He turned in his best offensive season, scoring 31 goals and 96 points in 66 games. He was also a major reason why the Petes won the Ontario Hockey League Championship. At the Memorial Cup the Petes advanced to the finals where they lost 4-2 to their rivals from the OHL, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who had been given an automatic berth in the Canadian championships as the host city of the tournament that year.
Still without a pro contract, McTavish opted to enroll at St. Francis Xavier University, where he played for one season, scoring 25 goals and 52 points in 25 games. In 1995-96 McTavish was selected to play for the Canadian National Team. In 53 contests he scored 24 goals and 56 points to lead the team. That point production garnered notice from various NHL scouts and on August 1, 1996, he was signed by the Calgary Flames to a free-agent contract. He played a total of nine games for the Flames, scoring once and tallying three points, which were his final NHL statistics.
In 1997-98, McTavish moved to Finland where he played two years with SaiPa Lappeenranta, scoring 47 goals and 82 points, leading the team in scoring both years. In 1999-00 he played for the Blues of the Finnish League and once again was at the top of the team scoring list with 51 points in 53 games. He also played in four games with the Canadian National Team, picking up three assists.