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Chicago Blackhawks, Scott Darling And A Tribute To My Hometown Hero

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Apr 17, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) prior to the game against the Nashville Predators in game three of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) prior to the game against the Nashville Predators in game three of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Stan Bowman has kept true to his word in making big changes to the Chicago Blackhawks following their first-round exit. The trade of fan favorite goalie Scott Darling is tough to swallow, but the return for an unsigned player just made too much sense. While his home of origin often was under question, those of us from Lemont will always know where his home is.

I was a junior in high school on a brisk October 2014 night when I was getting ready to watch a Chicago Blackhawks game. I’ll always remember hearing Pat Foley doing his quick breakdown of the night’s starting goalies and hearing him say Scott Darling, a Lemont native, will be debuting for the Blackhawks.

I did a double take. I remember thinking. “Did he really say from Lemont? I’m from Lemont.” When I finally processed it, I was more excited to watch a regular-season game than perhaps ever before.

I watched as Darling dazzled that night and secured his first ever victory in the NHL. After that game, he continued his strong play and eventually booted Antti Raanta down to the minors. As his spot as the team’s backup became more and more secure, more information about his rise to the NHL came to light, and the story seemed as if it came right out of Hollywood.

Darling struggled with alcoholism, his battle with it so severe it nearly cost him his hockey career, and for a while he bounced around the lowest of professional hockey leagues. When he’s asked to list all the teams he played for leading up to his stint with the Blackhawks, you better have time on your hands, because it’ll take up an evening.

I was just beginning my journalism career at Lemont High School, and when I got to class the day after I immediately began writing anything I knew and could find out about our newest hometown hero. Every person I talked to who had known Darling as he grew up here had only nice things to say about him.

Chicago Blackhawks

2014-15 season

As the season progressed into the playoffs, signs began to pop up in the windows of local businesses with #Lemont’sDarling and a big number 33 right in the middle. The city was behind him, and he was about to validate our support with the biggest moment in his career.

In the 2015 playoffs, Corey Crawford did not get off to the greatest start in the world, and the Blackhawks went down 3-0 in their opening game against Nashville.

Darling came in and managed to lead the ‘Hawks to a comeback win that coach Joel Quenneville (a man not known for superlatives) called, “One of the greatest relief performances you’re going to see.”

After two previous Cup championships, those playoffs felt closer to home than any other playoff, and the small village that doesn’t show up on most weather reports was as frenzied as ever.

When Darling lifted the Cup above his head, many households erupted. Lemont was a cool place to be that night, and it was even cooler when he brought the cup home to share with fellow Lemont natives.

Chicago says goodbye

When the news broke Friday evening that Darling had been traded, it was followed with the standard thanks and best wishes from GM Stan Bowman. But Darling deserves more than that.

He may as well have saved Quenneville’s job with the ‘Hawks, as its difficult to see a scenario in which Quenneville remained head coach if he had lost that 2015 series against Nashville, followed by two first-round exits. Without him, our three-time Cup champion Blackhawks may have been four springs removed from their last title.

So no, Darling does not deserve the cookie cutter thank you and see-ya that he got, and no matter what I write here will be enough to describe what he has meant to the Blackhawks organization, Lemont and even myself. But alas I will still try.

I don’t have a lot of hometown pride for Lemont, but he gave me something to be proud of. My closest friends now that I’m in school at Michigan State will roll their eyes at me when I mention  the Blackhawks’ goalie is from my hometown for about the 1,000th time (lucky for them they won’t have to hear about that anymore).

The trade was a good one, though. A third-round pick for a goalie not even under contract is more than the Blackhawks could have expected. I thought the team would lose him for nothing.

Darling has proven he can play, and after the life he’s lived and the career he’s enjoyed, he deserves his chance as a No. 1 goalie. With an up-and-coming team like the Hurricanes, the situation he’s entering is more than ideal.

We in Lemont have a stupid nickname for ourselves, but it is still endearing for many. So from one Lemonster to another, Mr. Darling, you will always be Lemont’s Darling.

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