Chicago's Scott Darling (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Illinois native trudged his way through the low minors after a controversial exit from the University of Maine. But thanks to his performance last night, he can now call himself a winner in the greatest hockey league on the planet.
Sometimes dreams do come true.
For Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling, that was the case Sunday night when he got the start and the win for his home team, capping a remarkable ascent to the NHL for the 25-year-old rookie netminder. But who exactly is this guy?
Darling's journey to the NHL is an unorthodox one. I actually googled him during the game against Ottawa last night to see if he had ever been on The Hot List, my roundup of prospects. Turns out, he made an appearance way back in 2008 as a freshman at the University of Maine. In retrospect, he was in some pretty good company at the time.
But Darling's time with the Black Bears was choppy; he was disciplined on several occasions for violating team rules and though it doesn't sound like it was anything nefarious, it did lead to his exit from the team after his sophomore year.
The next season (2010-11), Darling went to work. He suited up in the Southern Pro League for the Louisiana IceGators, then played most of the next campaign for the Mississippi RiverKings, while also dabbling in the ECHL and the Central League.
Last season, he earned a regular shot in the American League with Milwaukee and posted a 2.00 goals-against average and .933 save percentage for the Admirals. Originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes, Darling found himself in Chicago's organization this season and with Corey Crawford felled by injury, the Illinois native finally got his chance at the NHL.
At 6-foot-6 and 232 pounds, Darling's most obvious asset is his size in net. Though his Blackhawks dominated the game against Ottawa for long stretches, the rookie had to be sharp in the third period when the Senators put the pressure on. But Darling held on for the 2-1 victory, with that one goal coming off a flukey 3-on-1. The rookie did an emphatic double-arm pump once the final buzzer sounded at the United Center and he was even named first star of the game for his efforts.
It was a long time coming for the 25-year-old, but Darling finally has his name in the NHL's history books.