Bryan McCabe was born in St. Catharines, Ontario but the family moved to Calgary when he was just six months old. He played for four years in the WHL, first with the Medicine Hat Tigers and then the Spokane Chiefs before finishing off the last part of his junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings, who advanced to the Memorial Cup in 1995, won by the host Kamloops Blazers. McCabe was selected by the New York Islanders in the second round, 40th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft and also represented Canada at the 1994 and 1995 World Junior Championships which both resulted in gold medals and was a tournament All-Star in 1995. He has also represented Canada at the 1997 and 1998 World Championships.
McCabe played just two-and-a-half years with New York, but did serve as the team's captain for a season. He, Todd Bertuzzi and a third-round pick in 1998 were sent to Vancouver for Trevor Linden in February, 1998. McCabe's stay on the Canadian west coast was short-lived as he was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks which in turn was even shorter. After just one year in the Windy City, McCabe was sent to the Maple Leafs for Alexander Karpovtsev and Vladimir Gusev in October, 2000.
In the 2001 playoffs McCabe played the finest hockey of his young NHL career. "It was a lot of fun," said McCabe who was making his first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. "I'm not satisfied though. It was tough losing in the second round." After a disappointing second round loss in the 2001 playoffs, McCabe and the Leafs looked to rebound in 2001-02. Having posted a career high in points with 28 the previous year, McCabe broke out offensively in 2001-02 scoring 17 goals and 43 points and was instrumental in Toronto's run to the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes. Although Toronto lost the series in six games to the upstart Hurricanes, the team fought to the bitte end, tying the game in the dying seconds before losing in overtime.
McCabe's totals dipped in 2002-03 and the St. Catherines native missed his first games since the 2000-01 season. Coming off a sub-par year offensively, McCabe rebounded in 2003-04, registering a career high 53 points (16-37-53). He bettered those totals over the next two seasons with the Leafs, registering 68 points in 2005-06 and 57 in 2006-07.
On the international stage, McCabe represented his homeland in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
In his seventh season as a Maple Leaf, McCabe's injury plagued season was the focal point for the club's struggles. After the blue and white failed to qualify for the NHL playoffs for the third consecutive season, numerous changes were made to the club's core group of players in the off-season. McCabe, who was the highest-paid Leafs player through the summer of 2008, was included in those off-season moves.
On September 2, 2008 Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Cliff Fletcher dealt McCabe to the Florida Panthers with a 4th round draft pick for Mike Van Ryn.
McCabe would go on to be named captain of the Florida Panthers on September 23, 2009 and shortly after would appear in his 1,000th NHL game.
On February 25, 2011, McCabe's time in Florida would come to an end. He was traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for Tim Kennedy and third round draft pick.