Interview With Stanley Cup Champion Scott Darling
If you ran into Scott Darling on the street and didn’t know who he was, you might mistake him for the local hipster barista or perhaps a musician instead of an athlete. His epic beard had a life of his own long before the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now his face is well known to hockey fans, especially in Chicago.
Darling’s story about his road to the NHL is now well-known: college athlete who partied himself out of hockey, eventually found his way back via the SPHL, and through hard work and luck, landed back in the AHL, and then got signed to a two-way contract with the hockey team he had grown up watching: the Chicago Blackhawks.
After bouncing up and down between their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs and the Blackhawks, Darling finished out the seasonwith the Blackhawks, helping them get past the Nashville Predators with three wins in the first round and becoming the first born-and-raised Chicago player to have his name engraved on the Cup.
Darling is one of the nicest, most relaxed players you’ll meet. Whether it’s at team events or elsewhere, he seems to have an endless smile for what life brings him.
InGoal Magazine caught up with him in Chicago this week at the GGSU Legends camp, where he was one of the instructors, and talked about the whirlwind since winning the Cup:
InGoal: Do you have any plans for your day with the Cup (June 29)?
Scott: “I’m having a family cookout in the morning. I’m taking it to the town I’m from, Lemont, in the afternoon (from 2 to 3:30 at the Lemont Park District) and then I’m having a party with hockey friends and people at night.”
(Update: Darling’s hometown of Lemont even re-named the street he grew up on “Scott Darling Drive” during the Cup celebration on Monday.)
InGoal: You had a front row seat for the Stanley Cup Final. At what point did you think, ‘yeah, we’re going to win this?’ Tell us a little about what it’s like to be on the bench at that point.
Scott: “The whole game was so close. We had the one-goal lead, not a very comfortable lead. Crow was playing unbelievable so we knew he was going to hold the fort down. And then when we scored the second goal with only a few minutes left, we were all trying to keep it together on the bench, trying to stay in the moment, not get too excited, not get too far ahead of ourselves. But that’s when we kind of realized that we might be doing it.”
InGoal: The NHL commercial says, “No words” but you’re well-known for being “the local boy” and dreaming of playing for the Blackhawks. Let’s talk about your year, from signing with the Blackhawks/IceHogs, to the repeated call-ups, to sticking with the team and the Cup run, and now being the first Chicago born-and-raised player to raise the Cup.
Scott: “‘No words’ is a good slogan for that, but the whole year was awesome. I was just thrilled to be a part of the organization that I loved my whole life. At the beginning, I was just worried. I had a great goalie partner in Rockford, Mike Leighton, he’s a legend, awesome goalie. So I was just worried about him, I wanted to get some playing time off of him, and he had a great season. I was lucky enough to get a few looks early, and made the most of them. It was a crazy year. Antti (Raanta) had a great season, too, at both levels. I was just excited for the opportunity to go up there at the trade deadline, and then … to go on that ride through the playoffs was a whirlwind. To get playing time in the first round was incredible.
Stanley Cup selfie featuring Blackhawks’ Joakim Nordstrom and Scott Darling pic.twitter.com/mnbghQoBud
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) June 16, 2015
“I was happy that I got to help, and makes the whole thing sweeter, knowing I had a role in it. And going forward through the rest of the playoffs was just incredible. You have an idea of what it might be like, but you never know until you’re a part of it. Then you just feel those emotional swings when you win and lose games, the long travel. You’re with the guys a lot more in the playoffs, too, so it’s like a whole team camaraderie thing, and it was just a blast to be a part of. And the fact that I actually won is just… incredible.”
InGoal: Is there a moment that stands out in your mind from the celebrations from the night of the Cup win until now, or that you remember most vividly?
Scott: “The locker room afterwards. The joy … and it was everybody, it wasn’t just the guys. It was the staff and people we don’t always see every day that had a huge part in everything too, and we were all in there together, just going nuts, celebrating. That was awesome. And the parade … to be up on the bus, and see all the people, seeing people in the crowd with your jersey or a picture of you or something, it’s unbelievable. It still blows me away.”
InGoal: When’s the first time that you saw somebody with your Blackhawks jersey?
Scott: “All my family and everybody has had them. The first one I saw that surprised me, we were playing St. Louis, and I looked up, and there were some 33-jerseyed fans. I thought it was a Byfuglien, but no. Sure enough, I went and double-checked. (smiles) Yeah. There aren’t that many; if you see a jersey, I’m probably related to them. The T-shirts are starting to get out there. It’s been pretty cool.”
InGoal: It must be fun for you. Three, four years ago, watching as a fan; now you’re in the parade.
Scott: “I’m just happy to be a part of it. It’s pretty great. They treat me as an equal in there, they make me feel comfortable, and made me feel comfortable all season. They’ve helped me transition into that role that I was in, and like I said, just an amazing year.”
InGoal: Is there any particularly moment you remember being out on the town celebrating?
Scott: “Not really … it was more the way that the city reacted. When we’d be out, you would’ve thought we were handing out money or something, people were going crazy. And it was amazing. We’d have to be police escorted places, and police escorted out, because people just want to be near you or touch the Cup, whatever it is, and it’s just the way the city has bought into hockey. It’s a lot different than when I was younger.”
InGoal: One of the other GGSU Legends Camp instructors mentioned you all went out to dinner the other night, and you were a bit shy about getting recognized.
Scott: “I’m a low-key person. No matter what I do in my hockey career, I’m still going to be somebody who likes to fly under the radar. But the city’s been so great to me, and these guys [the other camp instructors] were in town, and I wanted to show them a little bit of what it’s like. I brought them down to Chicago Cut, the people there are unbelievable. They took care of us and showed them a great time. I try not to use my ‘cards’ too often, but with this crew, I had about eight of them out with me, other goalies. It’s a special feeling to be treated that way by your own city and I wanted them to experience it. So they got that. I took them out around town afterwards, got the red carpet pulled out for them.”
— Shannon Szabados (@ShannonSzabados) June 24, 2015
InGoal: When is the first time you got recognized around town?
Scott: “Right away after my first game. It was pretty tame during the year, but ever since the Nashville series and now it’s even – I wouldn’t say “worse”, but it happens more.”
InGoal: Being here at GGSU Legends Camp, helping teach kids and adults, what do you think you bring to the table that is unique in your position as role model/mentor/coach?
Scott: “I would say I’ve hopefully inspired some hope. The people here, a lot of these guys aren’t highly touted, big-name prospect goalies. But some of these guys have high aspirations in their hockey career. But to see a guy who started from a league that nobody’s heard of who made it all the way to the NHL gives hope to a guy who’s maybe struggling to make his college team, struggling to make a junior team right now, that things can turn around, as long as you keep doing the right things. You never know what can happen. As a coach, I’ve been goalie coaching for a long time (at Stop It Goaltending as well as the GGSU Legends Camp), so I don’t know if I’m a great goalie coach by any means, but I have a good eye for the subject of goaltending, I guess you could say. It’s just fun to interact with the guys. I know that if I was eighteen and got to come here and train with AHL and NHL goalies, I’d be over the roof about it.”
~ Thanks to Scott Darling for taking the time to talk during his work at the GGSU Legends Camp; Look for more insights into his incredible journey from the SPHL to Stanley Cup Champion, including his advice for other goalies and the Blackhawks moment that left him in tears, in the next edition of InGoal Magazine.