Our Pledge To You

NHL

Scott Darling granted leave of absence from Hurricanes for personal issue

Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling has taken an indefinite “personal leave of absence,” according to the News & Observer. He had been playing for the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate in Charlotte for the majority of this season, but did not travel with the Checkers to Hershey for their most recent game after the team promoted Callum Booth from the ECHL.

Carolina general manager Don Waddell confirmed Sunday that the team granted the leave of absence.

“Since he’s been down there he’s had some good games and some bad games,” Waddell told the News & Observer. “He had a tough game the other night and his agent called me and said he would like to take a personal leave of absence and would we allow that to get his mind back together. That night he got rocked for about five (goals) and before he had a shutout (in regulation) before we lost in overtime 1-0. So we gave him the leave of absence.”

Cam Ward, who played with Darling last season, said after the Hawks’ 5-2 win over the Red Wings that he had not heard about the leave of absence (because it was announced in the middle of the game), and he plans to check in on his former teammate.

Scott Darling has had a rough time on the ice since leaving the Blackhawks in 2017. | AP Photo/David Banks

Darling’s story of reaching the NHL in his mid-20s is one of the most inspiring in hockey. He overcame alcoholism and anxiety issues that almost derailed his hockey dreams to become the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender behind Corey Crawford in 2015. Over the next three years, he was popular in Chicago, and emerged as a potential starting netminder option in the NHL.

The Hurricanes traded for Darling in the spring of 2017 and quickly signed him to a lucrative four-year contract extension. Upon leaving the Hawks, the goalie wrote a heartfelt article for The Players’ Tribune detailing some of his struggles while saying farewell to to the city.

Darling performed poorly in his first season in Carolina, with his save percentage dropping from .924 to an ugly .888. The Hurricanes added Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek to compete with Darling this season, and those two have ended up beating him out for NHL playing time most of the season. Darling’s only played eight NHL games this season (with a .884 save percentage), the last coming against the Capitals in mid-December.

As Waddell noted, Darling’s ineffectiveness on the ice haven’t gone away in the AHL. His save percentage (.882) in 14 games with the Checkers this season is even worse than his numbers with the Hurricanes. He stopped more than 87 percent of the shots he faced in just one of his last six appearances.

Darling’s agent confirmed to the News & Observer that his absence is for a “personal thing.” Waddell said the team would take it week-to-week with the goalie to determine when he’s ready to come back. The GM also denied that this was a performance-based decision.

“We all know he’s had ups and downs in his career, and we’ll be supportive,” Waddell said. “He’s still under contract for two more years and we’ve got to see if we can get this thing back together.”

Jason Lieser contributed reporting to this article.