Darling’s life story and career are not only inspirational, his pads are ridiculous. As in, ridiculously catchy, ridiculously cool, ridiculously awesome.
And for anyone who thinks goalies are quick, this story is also about how quick things can happen. No sooner was Darling being considered for the U.S. team for the World Championship than his mind was racing with ideas for appropriate pads to celebrate the occasion.
“When I got the call to come to Denmark, it was pretty short notice, only two days before we left, but I called [the goalie company] up anyway.
“They help me design all my pads. If you look at my gear, it’s always got a lot of unique colour combinations. I don’t wear white pads like other goalies. These are probably the whitest pads I’ve ever had.”
Fans who see goalies at the World Championship will usually see their national team goalies wearing the mask, pads, and equipment of the goalies' club team. Denmark’s Freddy Andersen, for instance, sports a nice blue Maple Leafs mask. Why the urgency for Darling? Why the need? What was he thinking?
“This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to play for Team USA,” Darling explained. “I wanted to go all out and have some cool memories from it, so these pads will be in my man cave for the rest of my life.”
Darling arrived in Herning, pads, blocker, glove, mask all decked out in stars ‘n’ stripes. But coach Blashill started Keith Kincaid in game one against Canada, and again the next game and the next and the next. Darling and his awesome pads saw pucks only in practice and warmup, and he sat on the bench during the games, the pads pretty much hidden from view.
Until yesterday, that is. With the Americans holding a comfortable 7-1 lead against Norway, Darling got the call to take to the blue ice to start the third. He allowed a couple of goals, but no matter. The team coasted to an easy 9-3 win, and Darling’s name is in the record books for having played.
“It’s always nice to feel the puck,” he said of his game action. “With these early afternoon games you’re sometimes not skating in the mornings, so for me it was nice they threw me out there for the third period. I let in those two goals, but what are you going to do? It’s nice to see some action.”
And, of course, Darling explains his desire to stand out in words we all know from a 'tender: “I just like to be creative and do something different. That’s part of being a goalie. You can kind of express yourself through your mask and gear.”
In the old days, goalies wore pads with a screaming lion or monster to try to intimidate their opponents. Not any more, but the intention is always there.
“I’m trying to intimidate them with the American flag,” Darling suggested, before adding. “Or try to distract them, at least!”