CHICAGO – It would have been easy for Scott Darling to forget where he came from.
After all, he was minutes removed from holding the Stanley Cup over his head on the United Center ice after his Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6. But of the surely thousands of things going through his mind at the time, the path he took to get there – a road that included playing for the Florida Everblades, Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones – was as prominent as it’s ever been for the gracious goaltender.
“Obviously, this is the end goal,” the 26-year-old told ECHL.com about winning the Cup.
“But the whole time, I’ve just been excited to be where I was at and took small steps forward, stuck with the program and trusted the process of working my way up through the minors. I played for some great teams along the way in every league, and I’m proud of every team I played for. I’m happy to represent every team I played for as a Stanley Cup champion.”
After playing his college hockey at the University of Maine, Darling made his professional debut with the SPHL’s Louisiana IceGators in 2010-11 before joining the Mississippi RiverKings of the same league a year later. He appeared in one game for the Everblades that season, and split time with Peter Delmas as Wheeling’s starter in 2012-13 before graduating to the AHL full-time, besides six games with the Cyclones last year.
This season, he supplanted Antti Raanta as Corey Crawford’s backup for his hometown Blackhawks and posted a 1.94 goals against average and .936 save percentage in 14 regular season appearances. That set him up to be on the postseason roster and get the opportunity to have his name engraved into the game’s biggest prize.
“It was incredible,” he said of getting to lift it. “It was a moment you dream about and that you envision. It was just incredible. There’s not enough words to describe the feeling.”
However, Darling wasn’t your typical playoff backup. He played a significant role in getting the Blackhawks into the second round, appearing in five Western Conference quarterfinal games against the Nashville Predators before eventually giving the net back to Crawford.
“It means a lot to me to know that I didn’t just sit there the whole time,” he said. “I actually chipped in when the team needed me in the first round, and after that, ‘Crow’ played amazing the whole time. He took over and led the way for the boys.”