Stanley Cup Champ Darling Coaching at Chicago Camp
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling is getting very little sleep as a Stanley Cup Champion, but it won’t keep him from being back on the ice as goalie school instructor next week.
Since raising the Cup over his head in front of family and friends in his hometown of Chicago on Monday night, the Blackhawks backup has enjoyed a whirlwind celebration that included being on Wrigley Field before a Chicago Cubs game Tuesday, and a parade that will end with a sold-out celebration at Soldier Field on Thursday.
It’s every goaltenders dream, and Darling, who helped the Blackhawks get past the first round with three wins after Corey Crawford stumbled early, is one of the few that gets to do it in his hometown.
“We took the Cup to Wrigley and pretty much all over Chicago,” Darling, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, told InGoal Magazine late Wednesday. “The whole experience has been amazing. It’s kind of hard to describe. It means a lot taking it to places I know and seeing people I know and everyone is excited to have a guy from Chicago win the Cup here. There hasn’t been a lot of sleep in the last 40 or so hours.”
— NHL (@NHL) June 17, 2015
That exhaustion won’t prevent Darling from getting back on the ice next Monday – less than seven days after winning the Stanley Cup – as an instructor at the second annual GGSU Legends Camp.
Darling took part in the inaugural GGSU Legends Camp last season and will be back at next week’s camp at the suburban Seven Bridges Ice Arena, no matter how tired he is from the Stanley Cup celebrations.
“It was such a great experience last year and they have done a great job making sure this year’s camp will be even better so I’m not going to miss it,” Darling said. “I might be tired, but I’ll be there.”
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 18, 2015
Darling may be the only instructor at GGSU Legends Camp with a Stanley Cup championship on his resume, but he’s far from the only professional goalie. That’s part of what makes it so unique.
GGSU stands for Goalie Gear Sluts United, a Facebook group started by former Alberta junior goalie Adam Weersink in the late 200os. The group now has more than 17,000 members, ranging from youth hockey to beer leagues, to NHL goalies like Darling, Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth.
The GGSU camps were started by Garret Sparks, a Toronto Maples Leafs prospect, long-time GGSU contributor and current GGSU administrator, and are the first run solely by young professional goalies for 16 to 21 year olds looking for a training and experience edge over their competition.
Along with Sparks and Darling, who are both originally from the Chicago area, this year’s list of guest instructors includes Mike Condon, who is third on the Montreal Canadiens depth chart, and two-time Olympic gold medal winner Shannon Szabados, who is currently playing in the SPHL, making her the only woman playing men’s professional hockey in North America since the early 1990s.
The other instructors include Justin Nichols, who signed a try-out with the AHL Toronto Marlies in April, and Alex Rigsby, who led the USA Women’s National Team to the 2015 World Championship.
The camp is divided into two categories: The “Legends” side is basically a “beer league experience required” for recreational goaltenders of all ages and skill level, while “Prodigies” camp is designed for youth goalies age 15 and over, with high-intensity training on and off the ice.
“We aim to show the Prodigies everything we have learned thus far on what it takes day in and day out to transform into a professional goalie,” Sparks said. “We try to show the Legends a good time and provide solid on-ice technical training and body recovery skills to conquer their beer league.”
The Legends Camp in Chicago next week is sold out, but there are a handful of spots still available in the Prodigies Camp, which includes goalie-specific weight training, recovery, warm-up and injury prevention education, equipment demonstrations from pro reps, personalized video sessions, and the only 3:1 student to instructor ratio that will include a recent Stanley Cup champion.
For Darling, who was nominated for the Masterton Trophy after overcoming personal struggles to make it from the Southern Professional Hockey League to the NHL in four years, it’s a chance to help young goalies and connect with other members of the GGSU Facebook group.
“I’m a goalie geek too and these are my people,” Darling said. “Having a place to talk about gear and style and all things goaltending is great, so I loved meeting some of the people that are a part of the GGSU group. And there were some really good goaltenders out there too.”
Sparks also added a second camp this year in Pittsburgh from July 13 through 17, with limited spots still available in both the Legends and Prodigies Camp, and there are plans for even more camps around the country in 2016. For goalies like Sparks and Darling, it’s been a great way to help other goalies at all levels, while finally getting to meet some of the goaltenders that have been a part of their lives through the online goaltending community at the GGSU Facebook Group.
“At our inaugural camp last year in my hometown of Chicago where we were able to assemble 25 goalies and had some of the wildest characters of GGSU in attendance,” Sparks said. “It’s quite an experience to finally pair physical beings with the names and pictures of people you have been friends with online for over five years, but it was such a fun and rewarding week we had to do it again.”
Having a freshly minted Stanley Cup Champion in the mix should only add to the experience.