Monday, October 27, 2014

The Journey of Goalie Scott Darling to the NHL Including His CHL Connection

Scott Darling

It is always great to see a hockey player that chases their dream against all of the odds and becomes successful and if you read anything about Chicago Blackhawk goalie Scott Darling's story it helps you understand why all players that pass through the Allen Americans organization believe they can perform at a higher level if just given the chance. Now starting their sixth year, the Americans have had only one player, Jordie Benn, make it to the NHL but many others still have that dream.

Scott Daring made his NHL debut last night in goal for the Chicago Blackhawks and came away with a 34 save 2-1 win. Not too bad for a guy that less than three years ago was bouncing around the SPHL, CHL and ECHL looking for a place to play. Here is his resume just since the 2010-2011 season.

2010-2011 - Louisiana IceGators (SPHL) - 30 games
2011-2012 - Mississippi RiverKings (SPHL) - 35 games
2011-2012 - Florida Everblades (ECHL) - 1 game
2011-2012 - Wichita Thunder (CHL) - 1 game
2012-2013 - Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) - 32 games
2012-2013 - Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) - 1 game
2013-2014 - Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) - 26 games
2013-2014 - Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) - 6 games
2014-2015 - Rockford IceHogs (AHL) - 2 games
2014-2015 - CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS - 1 game

The story below written by Chris Peters of talks about Scott Darling's journey to the NHL. It is one of hard work, making hockey your top priority, never giving up and yes, a little luck.

Blackhawks G Scott Darling took long road to first NHL win

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

As a familiar horn sounded to let Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling know he just earned his first win in his first NHL game, the emotion was obvious. The 6-foot-6 goalie became a little smaller as he crouched and rattled his hands in celebration. It was probably part joy, part relief and part realization of both a dream and the seizing of a second chance.
Chicago is the 13th different team that Darling has played for since the 2010-11 season, a winding road that started with a closed door. After two seasons at the vaunted University of Maine hockey program, Darling was released from the team and decided to try the pros at 21 years old.
A sixth-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes three years prior, he remained unsigned, but they continued to control his rights. Instead of trying to catch on with another college program via transfer, Darling decided to embark on his pro career.
“I was a bit of a wild child when I was in my late teens and early-twenties,” Darling told in February. “That's kind of what caused me to leave Maine after my sophomore year instead of going for four-years. Then Phoenix sent me to their [ECHL] team which, at the time, was in Las Vegas. Which, for a guy who likes to have fun, Las Vegas is not a good place to be.
“I used to like to go out to bars, liked to party, and do everything a normal 21-year old likes to do. It wasn't good for my hockey career. I got in trouble a few times. When you get labeled as a wild card people don't want to pay you money to be a hockey player. You're a liability. So that definitely slowed down the start of my career.”
Now carrying the dreaded “character concerns” tag and the Coyotes passing on him as a result, Darling had to start at the bottom with zero guarantees and slim chances he'd ever make it to the NHL. He signed with the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League, which is almost the bottom rung of professional hockey in North America.
He had an inconspicuous start with an .892 save percentage in 30 appearances, but it was enough to earn him another year of pro hockey.
The following year, he was with the Mississippi RiverKings in the SPHL and had a few unmemorable cups of coffee in both the Central Hockey League and ECHL.
Darling apparently did enough to be granted the opportunity to climb a few rungs of the ladder as he signed with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and got into 32 games in 2012-13. He put up respectable numbers and even earned a call to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL for a game.
Last season, he was offered a contract by the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League after having worked with Nashville Predators goalie coach Mitch Korn. In 26 AHL appearances, Darling posted a sparkling .933 save percentage. It was his breakout and thanks to his size and athleticism, it got him noticed more.
That's when the Lemont, Illinois, native got the call from the team he grew up following. He signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Blackhawks over the offseason. He was to start the year in Rockford in the American League, likely as the backup to veteran Michael Leighton. He eventually jumped Leighton on the depth chart and did well in his first two appearances of the season.
When Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford went down with an upper-body injury last week, it was Darling who got the call to the big club. With Chicago playing back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, it was simply Darling's turn after Antti Raanta was in net for a road loss the night before.
Darling responded with 32 saves in a 2-1 win for the Blackhawks, stopping a two-game skid and helping Chicago survive a sloppy start to the game with some big saves early.
To think of the series of things that had to happen for Darling to get into the lineup, there was a lot of luck involved. It doesn't matter how it transpired, though. What matters is what Darling did with it. He was named the game's No. 1 star and looked like he belonged.
And considering the road he had to take, what are the odds that his big moment would have come in the building he's probably been in dozens of times as a fan?
Over the last five seasons, Darling saw 13 different logos on his jersey from IceGators to Everblades to Nailers to IceHogs. When he looked down Sunday night, he was wearing one of the most famous logos in all of sports. The same logo he probably wore on a lot of his clothing as a kid in the Chicago suburbs and the one that now represents a dream fulfilled.

DID YOU KNOW: Scott Darling played in one game in the CHL with the Wichita Thunder on January 21, 2012 and was also called up during their championship run in May but did not play. The one game he did play was against the Texas Brahmas at NYTEX Center and he lost that game by a score of 5-2. There was an Allen Americans connection to that game as three players that scored goals in that game would end up in Allen. Ross Rouleau had two goals and Phil Fox one for the Brahmas and Daniel Tetrault had a goal for Wichita.

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