By Chris Emma–
(CBS) One day, you’re singled out at the White House by the president of the United States. Another day, you’re riding the pine.
Such is life for a backup goaltender, but Scott Darling of the Blackhawks is no stranger to this.
“It’s definitely not fun to be behind the best goalie in the league,” Darling said. “But it’s an honor to be here.”
Of course, he’s genuine in saying that. The 27-year-old Darling played for nine minor league teams — that list includes the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League — before joining his hometown Blackhawks. He’s a humble figure because of where he’s been.
Darling has overcome his own struggles, molding him into the person he is today. When an Arizona man was in need recently as the Blackhawks were on a road trip, Darling put him up for a month in a hotel. President Barack Obama understood where this gesture came from and referenced it Thursday when the Blackhawks were honored at the White House for their 2015 championship.
“A champion reached out to help somebody who could use a hand, even though he didn’t have to, even though nobody was looking, even though he wasn’t asking for credit,” Obama said of Darling. “I’d like to think that reflects something about our city, about Chicago. It’s a very American thing to do.”
Obama knows the pride Darling holds in his hometown. He wears civic pride literally on his (tattoo) sleeve.
There’s no complaining from Darling. His role can be a challenge, but his place back home is more than enough to cherish.
Darling has played in 15 games this season, with a 2.45 goals against average and .917 save percentage. His time on the ice has been minimized by the stellar play of Corey Crawford, a contender to win the Vezina Trophy as hockey’s best goaltender.
But Darling knows to stay ready for his chance. He stepped up during five playoff games last season, including three wins during the first-round series with the Predators. He was then hit by three Predators first-period goals in Game 6, and Crawford took the net again, leading Chicago to the Stanley Cup.
Once again, the Blackhawks are a favorite to win Lord Stanley’s prize, and Darling is doing his best to prepare.
“You’re just buying your time, waiting, staying excited, whether it’s one week, two weeks, three weeks,” Darling said. “Any time I get a chance to play, I’m thrilled.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likes what Darling brings to the net, saying he’s “big, square (and) effective.” When Crawford needs a night off or relief from the bench, Darling’s ready to roll.
After practices when the team breaks its huddle, Darling often stays on the ice for some time so he can work with Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite. Preparing as if you’re the starter is key for any backup, and Darling does it well.
Stay true to yourself, and you never know — you might get a shoutout from the president. Darling just focuses on being ready to shine at a moment’s notice.
“That’s my job as a backup goal,” he said. “Be ready to go.”