First Period: World Championship & Travel
CH.com: What was the experience at Worlds like for you, and where did you get the inspiration for the pad design?
Darling: It was awesome. I've always wanted to play for Team USA, like most American kids growing up. With no Olympics, the World Championship is the last opportunity for us to do it. They gave me the call, and I was through the roof. It was pretty short notice, so I packed my stuff and headed to Denmark. My equipment maker, Brian's, they're the best at the custom work and the customer service. They got those pads done in about three days for me, and my mask painter, DaveArt in Sweden, did the mask in one day and hand-delivered it to Denmark for me. That was pretty cool. It's a cool keepsake, the picture wearing the USA gear, and keeping the stuff for my man cave.
CH.com: Do you and Brian's have anything up your sleeve for the 2018-19 season?
Darling: We just designed the new stuff. It's top-secret, the new design. Canes fans and hockey fans will be seeing it soon. Right now, it's getting made.
CH.com: You did some sightseeing in Europe after Worlds?
Darling: I did. We finished the tournament in Copenhagen, which is a beautiful city. My girlfriend and I stayed for three weeks and went to Sweden, Germany, Austria, a country called Lichtenstein - which I wasn't aware was a country until I was driving from Austria to Switzerland - and then to Zurich. And then found our way to Egypt from there.
CH.com: Did you really?
Darling: Yeah. We had some extra time at the end of the trip and were looking at places to go - Estonia or Riga, kind of off the path, not the major cities. All of a sudden, we realized how close we were to the African continent; it was a three-hour flight from Munich to Egypt, so we went to Cairo and Giza. Saw the pyramids and rode camels, the whole nine. We did that for four-and-a-half days. Flew home, and back to work.
CH.com: I was going to ask what your favorite stop was, but I have a feeling it might have been Egypt.
Darling: Yeah, seeing the pyramids and the Sphinx. I've never been to a country like that, so that was, by far, the coolest, most unique experience. But all of it from Denmark on, I had never been to Europe. I loved Germany. My sister was actually born there, and my dad was stationed in the military there for a couple of years. I was the only member of my family who hadn't been to Germany, so it was fun to go there and see where my family used to live in Stuttgart. We saw a lot of cool stuff along the way. Did a lot of tours and sight-seeing. The whole trip was awesome.
Second Period: Summer Workouts
CH.com: Then you get back here and start working with Bill Burniston. How did you formulate a plan for what you wanted to accomplish this summer?
Darling: I went to Worlds right away and then you need a mental reprieve, so I took my three weeks. We had already laid out what we were going to do before I even went to Worlds, so I flew back on a Sunday night from Giza, and I was in the gym on Monday morning with Bill. I've been there ever since. He's been great. We've seen a lot results that we've been looking for, and we're right on track to be exactly where I want to be come training camp.
CH.com: What's been the main focus?
Darling: Overall health. I've focused a lot on my diet, too. My girlfriend has been great. She's a vegetarian and eats really healthy, so she's been teaching me how to eat healthy, which I had no idea how to do. She's been helping me a lot with that, and then training six days a week with Bill, just trying to lose some weight and body fat and work on a little bit of everything. I'm doing Pilates for flexibility and range of motion. I'm doing boxing classes for cardio. That's more of a fun way to work out. It can get old riding an assault bike or running on a treadmill. It's been fun to mix in some boxing. Just trying to do everything we can to be ready for the season.
CH.com: And you imagine the punching bag is Bill, probably.
Darling: [Laughs] Only some days. It's been great hanging out with Bill. He's a great guy. We like to give each other a hard time. It's been fun and a good atmosphere with him. Slavo's (Jaccob Slavin) been there. Z's (Valentin Zykov) here. Cam's (Ward) still working out here. It's been good to see them in the mornings, and more guys will start trickling in and we'll all be doing that together coming in hot to training camp.
CH.com: The next step after the gym work is to get back on the ice and working with the guys, right?
Darling: Yeah, I've already started getting on the ice a little bit. Now we're making plans to make it a more routine thing to come here to RCI and skate. You need shooters, too. It's nice to have Z and Jaccob here, and we can all go on the ice together. Come the second or third week of August, most of the guys will be back in town so we can get some full skates going. Even between now and then I might leave for a weekend to go skate with my goalie coach in Boston or find some other means of training.
Third Period: The New-Look Canes
CH.com: The changes the Hurricanes have undergone this summer have been pretty drastic, really from the top down. What's been your impression?
Darling: I've been really excited about the moves we've made. It's tough to see guys leave. You're going to miss teammates. But the guys we have coming in, whether it's Dougie Hamilton or (Micheal) Ferland, and signing Calvin de Haan was awesome. And then the youth movement we have coming in - I saw Marty playing at Worlds, and he looked really good. That's exciting. And then to get that second overall draft pick was huge, too. It's good. Obviously, we didn't have success last year with the group we had, so it's nice to change it up. To have Rod in charge now, I'm excited for that because he was a great assistant coach and great to me. I'm excited for him to take the reins. Having Petr (Mrazek) come in will be good. He's kind of in the same boat as me; we're both trying to prove that we can be the guy we're supposed to be. I've had the chance to talk with him a little bit, and he seems like an awesome guy. Overall, the team as a whole, I'm extremely optimistic about this season.
CH.com: What excites you most about having Rod Brind'Amour as head coach?
Darling: He played the game. He had such a great career, and he knows hockey so well. It's going to be nice to have his opinions come to the top in what he thinks we should do. He was great as an assistant coach, and I'm excited to see how he does as a head coach.
CH.com: And you'll have a new goaltending partner, as you mentioned, too. Have you had a chance to talk with Petr (Mrazek) and get to know him?
Darling: We've texted a bit since he's signed. We've played against each other for a long time, actually. I played against him in the ECHL, we played against each other in the A for a while and then obviously in the NHL. He's shown, too, that he can be an elite goalie. We're both coming off years where we wished for better results. It's good for both of us to be pushed. I think it's only going to better for the whole organization to have both of us working as hard as we can to beat each other out while still having a good goaltending relationship.
Overtime: Moose, the Dog
CH.com: You got a dog.
Darling: I got a dog.
CH.com: How's he been so far?
Darling: He's been good. I've been pleasantly surprised. He's been growing like a weed. We named him Moose. He's a Great Dane. Pretty soon, he's going to be about 150 pounds. It's been awesome. It's been nice to make Raleigh my home, and move in and settle in. My girlfriend is here now. We've got the house and the dog, living here all summer, making this your home base, it makes everything a little more comfortable here. The dog has been a welcome addition to the family.
CH.com: How old is he?
Darling: 10 weeks now. We've had him for a week. He's smart. He's already potty trained. He can already do "sit." We've got to work on the nipping. He gets so excited, and for about an hour a day, he turns into a little hellion. Other than that, he's been great.
CH.com: He's got over 1,000 followers on Instagram.
Darling: He's hot on the 'gram.
CH.com: Is that more you or your girlfriend?
Darling: She does the pictures. I do the captions. She's good with the filtering. I'm better with the sharp humor.
CH.com: The Slavins' dogs have almost 5,000 followers.
Darling: We've got our work cut out for us, then.
CH.com: Your dog is quickly rising to fame, though.
Darling: We'll have to bring Moose over to play with Lola and company and then steal their followers. That's how it works on the 'gram.
CH.com: What's been your favorite thing about having the dog and the house and everything?
Darling: One of my best friends is from Raleigh. We lived together last year, but we were just in an apartment. You go to the rink, you go home, you sit there and wait to go to the rink again. Now I have a home and a place to get away from everything. The dog has been a welcome distraction. I love dogs. I've always loved dogs and had dogs growing up, so I've always wanted a dog of my own. Now that I have a place that's right to have a dog, so he can have a fenced-in yard and run around and get good treatment, now was a great time. He's been awesome.
1. Last Netflix show you binged.
Darling: I'm embarrassed to say it. First, I re-watched "Game of Thrones." Then, I didn't know what to watch, so I watched "Glow." I watched the whole thing.
CH.com: I've heard it's good, though.
Darling: It was. Honestly, after the first episode, I was like, 'I don't want to watch this anymore, but I've gone this far.' So, I watched 19 more episodes. [Laughs] It was OK.
CH.com: You should watch "Peaky Blinders." It's excellent.
Darling: I've heard that. I just had the weekend with just me and the dog. We watched about 25 movies. I'm more of a movie guy, but when we're doing a group watch, we always watch TV shows.
2. Favorite movie you've seen recently.
Darling: There haven't been a lot of good movies to come out this summer. I watched that new one with Joaquin Phoenix, "You Were Never Really Here." It's kind of an indie thriller. That was pretty good. I like to watch a lot of stupid movies. I watched "Megamind" the other day. I watched "The Proposal." Stuff like that. Rom-coms, comedies, I like the Pixar stuff, too. I still haven't seen "Incredibles 2." I need to go see that, but I figured I'd maybe wait until it's on iTunes so I don't show up to a movie theatre by myself.
3. Favorite summertime activity, other than working out, of course.
Darling: Other than working out. That's by far my favorite. I've been to a few Durham Bulls games. I like minor league baseball, and I love that stadium. The team's good, too, so it's been fun to go over there. Outside of that, honestly it's a lot of work to get a house set up, so - even today, I had the garage door guy there, the HVAC guy there, an electrician there. Getting a lot of stuff done. All this adulting.