SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A year ago, Scott Darling went to the Blackhawks’ training camp as an unknown goaltender just looking for a chance.
A year later, Darling is well known around the league as the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender and a Stanley Cup champion. With his two-year deal with the Blackhawks kicking in this season, Darling’s feeling more secure – well, sort of.
“Maybe a little more but you’re never really secure,” said Darling following Saturday’s sessions at Notre Dame. “I’m on a two-way this year; they can send me down whenever they want. I’m going to keep my foot on the gas and just do what got me here.”
It’s been an incredible year for Darling, whose feel-good story was a popular one to tell throughout last season. After so many trying years Darling broke through, saving his best performances during the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators.
But as he prepares for this season, Darling isn’t resting on his laurels or last year’s outing.
“The thing is, you can’t get comfortable,” Darling said. “I was an unknown guy last year and here I am. You can’t let your foot off the gas. I’m going to work for it this year.”
Darling still remembers those first few days at camp last season, not long after he signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. He still has some of those feelings in his second go-around.
“It’s a good memory. I was really nervous, excited to be here. I’m just as excited, maybe a little less nervous [this year], so that’s a nice feeling,” Darling said. “It’s just fun to see the guys again and meet all the new guys.”
The Blackhawks goaltending situation looked set last fall when Darling came here. Then backup Antti Raanta had just signed a two-year deal the previous summer. But Darling garnered notice immediately.
"He got our attention opening game, opening day: big-bodied, wow. He wowed us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was one of those surprises you don't see every year. There [are] always some surprises, but the level he got our attention was new heights and it continued on.”
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“Each and every day he got the opportunity to play in NHL exhibition games and everything, no matter if it was practices, games, so he came on the scene in a real nice way for us and helped solidify that goaltender position that was maybe up for grabs at the time for him,” Quenneville said. “It took him a while to get it secured, but he took advantage of it when it was there again."
Darling doesn’t plan on getting too comfortable in goal – as he said, anyone can come out of nowhere to take the job, much like he did last year.
At the same time, there’s still a more feeling of security for Darling, who bought a house in Chicago last summer. In sports there are always changes and there’s never guaranteed security.
But it’s still more than he’s had in a while.
“A lot of things changed in my life. I got to unpack my bags for the first time in a few years, so it’s nice,” Darling said. “It’s a big relief, a little less stress this year and hopefully enjoy it.”