Lemont's Darling brings Stanley Cup to hometown
It's difficult to say who had more reason to be excited at the Lemont Park District on Monday: any one of the Blackhawks fans who waited hours to pose with the Stanley Cup, or goalie Scott Darling, who had the chance to hoist the trophy in his hometown.
A crowd of more than 4,000, undeterred by storms, lined up to see Lemont's Darling and his shiny prize. Although the public couldn't go inside until 2 p.m., it was announced that the first person in line had arrived at 5:18 a.m.
Darling is the first Chicago-area native to win a Cup with the Blackhawks, and he also was the first Hawks player to get his turn taking the Cup on tour this offseason.
Between the signs that read "#LemontsDarling" and the renaming of 4th Street as "Scott Darling Drive," it's clear Lemont residents are proud of their hometown product.
Darling signed autographs and shook hands with elated fans, making for an exhausting but rewarding day.
"It's been amazing," Darling said. "To see all the people from here, and a lot of people I grew up with and went to school with, it's great."
The 26-year-old rookie grew up in Lemont as a Hawks fan, attending Lemont High School before playing junior hockey and then heading to the University of Maine.
He left Maine in 2010 and went to the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League. After bouncing around lower-level pro hockey teams, he got his career back on track and then landed almost where he started -- in Chicago, with the Blackhawks.
When starter Corey Crawford was benched in the first playoff series this year against Nashville, Darling performed admirably, highlighted by a 42-save effort in Game 1.
His twisting journey culminated in a moment that would have seemed impossible not so long ago, with him sitting next to the Stanley Cup, greeting people who before saw him as a neighbor and now see him as a hockey hero.
"They're just happy for me personally," Darling said. "It's good for young kids to see that good things can happen if you do the right things, and I'm excited to be a part of that."
The Cup spent some time with Darling's family before heading to the park district event where fans could meet Darling and take a photo with the Cup in the afternoon.
"I've had some personal time with (the Cup), and it's time to give back," Darling said. "It wasn't just me who got me here, a lot of people along the way helped. I'm happy to bring it back here to the place I call home."
Although his No. 2 goalie status was solidified after the trade of Antii Raanta, don't expect Darling to get too comfortable with his role.
"I want to stay here. I want to be here a long time," Darling told reporters.
"Nothing solidifies anything. I've still got to earn everything next year and there's always goalies, so many good goalies, so you can't let the foot off the gas at all. I'm excited to come to camp ready to go."