Scott Darling Act Two: From Stanley Cup Winner to Comedian
Scott Darling, the retired goaltender who won a Stanley Cup ring with the Chicago Blackhawks, he had a glass of vodka and soda in his right hand. A framed photo of “The Muppet Show” was on a wall over his left shoulder, hanging just above an album cover featuring Bob and Doug McKenzie.
“I used to vote before every hockey game I played professionally,” he said. “Each one. He would warm up and throw up before every game. That’s how nervous I was.”
He started working on math out loud. With 126 regular season games in the NHLin addition to five others in the playoffs and dozens more in the American Hockey League, Darling figured it worked with more than 200 trips to recover in the arena’s bathroom stops.
“I don’t throw up before comedy,” she said. “But I get mild panic attacks before I go on stage.”
The 33-year-old was parked near the lobby bar at the Levity Comedy Club & Lounge in Hamilton, Ont., as a few patrons walked by. It was a calm and stormy weekday night outside, which conspired with all the other forces of the universe to limit sales to a dozen or so tickets, even with the promise of seeing a former goalkeeper of the NHL work with a microphone.
Darling has embraced stand-up comedy as what he calls a “passion project” and a way to approximate what it felt like to play in front of 20,000 hockey fans. He was an elusive sensation in retirement, and his stop in Hamilton was part of a miniature Canadian comedy tour.
Jesse Ralph, son of Maple leaves Color radio analyst Jim Ralph picked up Darling at the airport – “I bet his luggage was more expensive than my car” – and was on the bill, too. A show in Barrie, Ontario, an hour north of Toronto, was said to have already sold out.
There were still plenty of good seats available when Darling was called to the Hamilton stage. No one in the audience was sitting in the front row, and with the bright stage lights blocking his view, the 6-foot-5 comedian would feel like he was talking to himself.
“Hello, Hamilton,” he greeted the room. “I actually used to play here. I played here a decade ago for the Bulldogs when they were a professional team.”
He paused, then spoke disconcertingly, “It’s a king’s shit town.”
There was laughter and even a few cheers.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just a joker.”
Darling warned the audience that he was working with dark humor. He told the story of his late father and went on to talk about his own divorce as well as his mother’s cancer diagnosis. (“Oh yeah,” he said, “buckle up.”)
“I missed that feeling — the shame, the guilt, the shame of conceding a goal 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 that void on stage, before handing the mic back to the host at the end of his set.
“When you’ve mastered something, you’ve got the mindset to be able to master something else,” Jesse Ralph said. “That’s where you see someone like Scott stand out, just because he already has the work ethic to be great at something.”
Jim Ralph, the radio voice of the leaves, also has a background in comedy. After retiring from his career as a minor league goaltender, he began a side career as a paid public speaker. (Even though he’s not comfortable speaking in public.)
“I’m not a comedian,” he said. “The goal could be the same, but I think the pressure is much more intense. I mean, if you go to a dinner party and someone is mildly amused, that’s a plus.
“If you’re going to see a comedy show, there’s pressure: you’d better be funny.”
Ralph was a goalkeeper, and so was Darling – is there something inherently fun about the position?
“It’s probably a different perspective,” Jim Ralph said. “But I also don’t know if I could watch Eddie Belfour stand up and tell jokes anywhere.”
Terry Ryan, who canadiens picked eighth overall in the 1995 NHL draft, has moved into television and entertainment. (Recently appeared in Canadian series “Shoresy”.) Jared Keeso was one fast fighting junior hockey player before helping to create ‘Letterkenny’.
There aren’t, so far, many former Stanley Cup winners who have embarked on a second career on the comedy circuit. Darling won his championship ring with the Blackhawks in 2015. He split time with a struggling Corey Crawford for the first five games of Chicago’s first-round series against Nashville that year, getting four starts and three wins. The Blackhawks went back to Crawford early in Game 6 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 one more year in Chicago, then spent parts of two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes before ending his career last year, in the AHL.
Darling still lives in Chicago, where he works as a Blackhawks studio analyst with NBCSN.
“I always joke with people, ‘Don’t let me think about something,'” he said. “Because if you tell me I can’t, I’ll do it 10 times better than you thought. I’m totally dedicated to being a better broadcaster and being the best comedian I can be.”
Travel with two notebooks. If he notices something, or feels the germ of a joke somewhere, he’ll note it down to feed it later. When he arrived in Hamilton, he was working on a joke about why he never trusts Canadians because they always seem too nice for his Chicago-bred tastes.
“I’m a super anxious person,” she said. “I hide it well. But before I go on stage I almost have a panic attack every time. And when I get off, I have a stroke. And then I come back down to earth and everything is fine.
“But it’s just something I’ve dealt with.”
In a way, he said, hockey prepared him for comedy.
“With a goalkeeper, it’s like a game within a game,” he said. “If you have a bad night, the team loses. This is. So you are like an island.
“If you go up there and bomb, it’s up to you, but if you tell the jokes well, you win. It’s like having a great game and winning.”
(Top Photo: Courtesy of Jesse Ralph)
#Scott #Darling #Act #Stanley #Cup #Winner #Comedian