Ex-keeper Darling has embarked on a new career in comedy

« I got depressed when I retired, » the 33-year-old former goalie told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio Thursday. “I was depressed for six months. I didn’t know what to do with my life. Our life is so regulated for all these years, and when it stops, we wonder what we can do. I tried to find something that pushes me out of bed in the morning. »

And he finally found it, recently. Darling, who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2015, found a new, somewhat unexpected passion that filled the void left by the end of his playing career: humor.

“A lot of people might be very surprised to learn that I’m doing this,” Darling noted. It starts with everyone I’ve played with, all my teammates. I was a quiet person, I tied my shoelaces in the locker room, I was withdrawn, because I am an anxious and nervous person, and I just wanted to do my job. When I retired, I realized that now I could really be myself, and I know I’m a jokester. »

Darling played his final NHL game with the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2018-19 season. He spent the next season with Innsbruck HC in Austria before playing just one game with Rockford in the American Hockey League in 2020-21.

His transition into the world of humor was almost by accident.

« I never thought I could do this, but I was at the Laugh Factory in Chicago and there was a guy named Ray Wisbrock who came on stage and he was hilarious, » Darling said. My humor is pretty dark, and I mostly talk about true stories from my life, and this guy, who was a bit older, had the same kind of humor. He recognized me in the hallway because I had played with the Blackhawks. We became good friends, and he asked me to open for him just once, swearing he’d never ask me again if I didn’t like it. So I did, but I was really bad. However, I loved my experience, as well as the excitement I felt. »

Suddenly, Darling found the adrenaline that had been so missing in his Darling life since retiring from the NHL.

“It honestly reminded me of what I felt during an NHL game, that adrenaline,” he said. I’m as passionate about humor today as I was when I played hockey. »

Darling toured this summer with comedian Ian Bagg and recently performed a series of shows in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he has previously performed during his career.

« I went to Raleigh and made fun of the city and North Carolina, and the crowd was like, ‘Ohhhh, you can’t say that,' » Darling mentioned.

So far, Darling hasn’t had to deal with too many obnoxious supporters during his shows, but he says he accepts criticism from those in the room, at their own risk, of course.

« Looking at me, it looks like I’m part of the Hell’s Angels, so people don’t take too much risk, » he joked. However, I love when people in the room try to distract me. I get all fired up when someone calls out to me when I’m on stage because I know I’m going to gut them.

“It didn’t happen to me too often, but I had a lot of fun the few times it did. I like to interact with the crowd, and even make the spectators angry a little. In real life, I’m a very nice person, but on stage, I seem like an arrogant and confident person, but that’s on purpose. »

Darling has named Tom Segura, Chris Distefano, Bert Kreischer and Andrew Santino as his biggest comedic influences. When he was playing Carey PricePekka Rinne and Ben Bishop were the goalkeepers he idolized, pointing out in passing, probably to stay in the spirit that inhabits him when he is on stage, that he is the only one among all these goalkeepers to have won the Cup Stanley.

In 2015, Darling became something of a folk hero in Chicago when he won three games against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round. Notably, he stopped all 42 shots he faced in relief to Corey Crawford in Game 1 to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory in the second period of overtime, and stopped 50 pucks in a 3- 2 in the third overtime in Game 4.

« It’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me, » Darling said of winning the Cup. I’m not going to deny it. I grew up in Chicago, I’ve been a Hawks fan all my life, and I still am a Hawks fan. …It meant so much to me. My family went to see the parade in 2010, I watched the parade in 2013 with my mom on her couch, and being part of the 2015 team and helping them win, oh my god, it makes me emotional just talking about it.

“That’s what I was told the most when I was walking around town. I am someone who is easily recognized, it is difficult for me to hide myself. I’m 6-foot-6, have a big beard, and I’m covered in tattoos, so I often hear people shouting « Nashville 2015! » at me. It’s probably the thing I’ve heard the most in my life. I often answer « Yes, that was me, I was there! » »

Photos: Jessica Lenai

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