The Chicago Blackhawks have had a recent penchant for parting with guys from the Chicagoland area. Today, we begin taking a look back at some of those athletes.
A special feeling accompanies the sentiment of being home. Specific childhood memories or learning to play the sport you love only enhance that feeling. Young athletes, competing in the sport they love, dream of playing for their favorite team. Young hockey players dream of playing for the NHL team they grew up around.
After the announcement that John Tavares had chosen to play in Toronto, he shared a memory of his. This memory was a picture. A young Tavares sleeping on Toronto Maple Leafs sheets. Completely buried in them, actually. Patrick Maroon is also getting a shot at playing for his hometown team, the St. Louis Blues. The soon-to-be hometown hero mentioned his excitement in a tweet of his own.
The Chicago Blackhawks, however, seem to be letting go of their hometown players. Up until the end of the 2016-17 season, the Blackhawks dressed three Illinois-born players: Scott Darling, Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. Since then, as of Thursday, each of the three mentioned ex-Blackhawks have been sent packing via numerous trades.
The trade that included Hinostroza — the last Illinois native on the Blackhawks — on Thursday sparked an idea to highlight how special it is to play for your hometown team. Like Tavares, you find yourself falling asleep in a bed covered in your favorite team’s sheets. Listening to the radio broadcast when you should be sleeping because, you know, overtime.
This three-part series will begin with Darling, whose story is inspirational. From the NAHL to the NHL, Darling battled demons and obstacles only to find himself on top as a champion.
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Scott Darling: Lemont native
Sometimes the thought of a trip home can be devastating and intimidating. For Darling, before playing in the NHL, a trip home meant leaving hockey altogether. The ex-Blackhawk goaltender was playing in Phoenix trying to make the Coyotes after being kicked out of the University of Maine hockey club in 2010.
"“I went outside to the casino’s parking lot and called my mom. I remember pacing around that parking lot for 20 minutes while I begged her to lend me $200 so I could take a flight to Louisiana.” She replied, “Scott, please just come home. Please. We’ll get you some help.”"
Battling more than just pucks, Darling was also battling alcoholism. He was losing both battles.
Darling found himself on nine different minor league teams between 2011 and 2014 before landing in Rockford with the IceHogs. The trip back home to Illinois would instead be celebrated. One step away from donning the jersey he had idolized growing up, Darling found himself back on the right track.
"“I remember I was standing in the crease during the national anthem, and I was looking up into the rafters at all the banners, and I had this crazy flashback to every team I ever played for — to standing in the crease and looking up into the rafters of every tiny barn that I played in along the way. Except this time, I was doing it at the United Center, where I had come as a kid with my dad.”"
Darling would hoist the Stanley Cup with his teammates in 2015 wearing the jersey he grew up admiring. With the organization he grew up rooting for. That is a special moment for a player. The quotes from Darling were taken directly from his contribution to The Players’ Tribune after being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2017.
His last few words will make even the toughest hockey player choke up. Darling closed with saying, “I love you, guys. I love you, Chicago. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”