Scott Darling Chapter Two: From Stanley Cup Winner to Comedian

Scott Darling, the retired goalie with a Stanley Cup ring Chicago BlackhawksHe had a glass of vodka and soda in his right hand. There was a framed photo from “The Muppet Show” hanging on the wall over his left shoulder just above the album cover featuring Bob and Doug McKenzie.

“I vomited before every hockey game I played professionally,” he said. “One at a time. I was warming up, throwing up before every game. That’s how nervous I was.”

He started doing math out loud. With 126 regular season games in NHLIn addition to five more in the playoffs and a dozen more in the American Hockey League, Darling discovered that he had successfully made more than 200 trips to get around the bathroom stalls of the arena.

“I don’t vomit before comedy,” he said. “But I have mild panic attacks before I go on stage.”

The 33-year-old was stationed near the lobby bar at Levity Comedy Club & Lounge, in Hamilton, Ontario, where a few patrons drifted in. It was a quiet, boisterous weekday evening outside, which had conspired with all the other powers in the universe to limit sales to about a dozen tickets, even with the promise of seeing an ex-NHL goaltender in action with a microphone.

Darling adopted stand-up comedy as what he calls a “passion project”, and as a way to approximate what it feels like to play in front of 20,000 hockey fans. He was feeling elusive in retirement, and his stop in Hamilton was part of a Canadian mini-tour.

Jesse Ralph, son maple leaves Radio color analyst Jim Ralph Darling picked up at the airport – “I bet his bags were more expensive than mine” – and he was also on the bill. An upcoming show in Barrie, Ont., an hour north of Toronto, is said to have already been sold out.

There were still plenty of good seats available when Darling was called to the stage in Hamilton. None of the audience was seated in the front row, and with the glowing stage lights blocking his view, the 6-foot-5 comedian would feel like he was talking to himself.

“Hi, Hamilton,” he greeted the room. “I actually used to play here. I played here, like, a decade ago for the Bulldogs when they were a professional team.”

He paused, then spoke hesitantly: “It is a tragic city.”

There was laughter and even some applause.

He said, “Sorry.” “I’m just a clown.”

Darling warned the audience that he was working with a sense of humour. He told the story of his late father and talked about his divorce, as well as his mother’s cancer diagnosis. (“Oh yeah,” he said, “f–king buckle up.”)

“I was missing that feeling: the shame, the guilt, the embarrassment of leaving a target in front of 20,000 people every night,” he told the room. What could fill the void?

He told jokes for five minutes and 37 seconds to fill in the space on stage, before returning the microphone to the host at the end of his set.

“When you master one thing, you already have the mindset to be able to master another,” said Jesse Ralph. “This is where you see someone like Scott excel, just because he really has the work ethic to be great at something.”

Jim Ralph, Leafs Radio VoiceHe also has a background in comedy. After retiring from his career as a minor league goaltender, he began a career as a paid public speaker. (Although he does not feel comfortable speaking in public.)

“I’m not a comedian,” he said. “The goal may be the same, but I think the pressure of this is much greater. I mean, if you go to dinner and someone is somewhat amused, that’s a bonus.

“If you go to see a comedy show, there’s pressure: you better be hilarious.”

Ralph was a goalkeeper, and so was Darling: is there something inherently funny about the position?

“Maybe a different perspective,” said Jim Ralph. “But I don’t know if I could see Eddie Balfour getting up and telling jokes anywhere either.”

Terry Ryan, of two canadians Selected eighth overall in the 1995 NHL Draft, he transitioned into television and entertainment. (Recently featured on Canadian series “Shoresy”.) Jared Kisso was a Quick brawling little hockey player Before he helped create Letterkenny.

Scott Darling

Corey Crawford, left, congratulates Scott Darling on his Game 3 victory over the Predators in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There are not, as yet, many former Stanley Cup winners who have made a second career start on the stand-up comedy circuit. Darling won his championship ring with the Blackhawks in 2015. He split time with struggling Corey Crawford over the first five games of a first-round series in Chicago against Nashville That year, I got four starts and three wins. The Blackhawks got Crawford back early in the sixth game after Darling allowed three goals in the first period. Crawford never got the job back, but Darling helped them avoid what could have been an early exit. He played another year in Chicago, then spent part of two seasons with the Chicago Bulls Carolina Hurricanes Before ending his career last year in the AHL.

Darling still lives in Chicago, where he is a Blackhawks studio analyst with NBCSN.

“I always joke with people: ‘Don’t let me get my mind on something,’” he said. “Because if you told me I couldn’t, I would do it 10 times better than you thought I would. I am completely dedicated to being a better broadcaster and being the best comedian I can be.”

Travels with two notebooks. If he notices something, or feels the germ of a joke somewhere, he’ll write it down to feed back on later. When he got to Hamilton, he was working on a joke about why he never trusted the Canadians because they always seemed too bland for his tastes growing up in Chicago.

“I am a very anxious person,” he said. “I hide it very well. But before I got on stage, I almost had a panic attack every time. And when I go down, I have a stroke. Then I get back on the floor and everything is fine.”

“But it’s just something I dealt with.”

In a way, he said, hockey prepared him for stand-up comedy.

“With the goalkeeper, it’s like a game within a game,” he said. “If you have a bad night, the team loses. That is. So you’re on an island sort of.

“If you get up there and bomb, that’s on you, but if you tell the jokes right, you win. It’s just like having a great match and winning.”

(Photo above: Courtesy of Jessie Ralph)

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