New role for Curtis Darling: coach.

Curtis Darling didn’t know where he would wind up after the 2009-10 season ended, but unless he got a call from the American Hockey League, it wasn’t going to be in a hockey crease somewhere.

Darling, who played in 57 games last season – the most ever for a Reign goalie – was done chasing the dream.

“That’s the thing with hockey,” he said. “It’s so much fun to play, and I had such a good year in Ontario. For me, anyway, it’s the ultimate golden carrot, where there’s always a little light at the end of the tunnel and you can get caught chasing the dream forever.

“There were ECHL offers, but the goal is to keep moving up. Most people can understand that – you want to keep moving up in life. It’s time to pursue other interests. That’s what it boiled down for me.”

Darling didn’t have to wait long for his next job.

Greg Puhalski, Darling’s head coach from 2007-09 with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers, offered his former goaltender one of two assistant coaching positions at Wilfrid Laurier University. The Golden Hawks play in CIS (the Canadian version of the NCAA), where Darling played collegiately for the University of Waterloo.

Darling, who has never coached outside of a hockey camp, jumped at the chance.

“I was pretty honored that he asked me, especially considering it’s my first coaching job,” he said. “Asking you to step in a coaching role after seeing the way you play, I was humbled.”

Not only was the 27-year-old not actively pursuing a coaching position, he didn’t even know what line of work to pursue next. If he had gotten an AHL call, Darling said “it would probably have played a factor” in his decision to retire. But that was a moot point.

“I heard from other coaches and scouts that I played well and had good ability, but they wanted to see more consistency,” Darling said. “Last year I thought I had more consistency, but I wasn’t able to move up.

“I had a great time, I loved playing in Ontario, but I wasn’t moving up. … It was my third year in the ECHL. Most people at that point had seen what I could do.”

Laurier is based in Waterloo, Ontario, about 90 minutes west of Toronto. So not only is Darling returning to his former league, but he’ll be able to live and work in the same city where he went to college.

“If this opportunity came along somewhere else,” he said, “I don’t know if I would be able to take it.”

This entry was posted in Ontario Reign/ECHL and tagged by J.P. Hoornstra. Bookmark the permalink.

About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.
  • Darling Fan

    We’ll miss Curtis in Ontario.

  • EB

    Hey JP…I know this is off-topic, but any idea as to why Reign players are signing with teams in the CHL (Central Hockey League). First Andrew Martens signs with the Wichita Thunder and now Greg Hogeboom signs with the Texas Brahmas. Many would argue that the CHL is a lower tier league than ECHL–depending on which league one supports. But I don’t believe CHL has the same access to the AHL (or NHL) as does the ECHL. Thoughts?

  • J.P. Hoornstra

    Since ECHL and CHL teams don’t disclose individual salaries, I can’t say this with certainty, but it serves to reason that pay is a factor. Both Hogeboom and Martens are in their late 20s and, at this stage in their career, their chances of getting a promotion to the AHL or NHL have dwindled. So even though more ECHL players get promoted more frequently (90 percent of AHL promotions come from the ECHL), you can see why someone in Hogeboom or Martens’ position might sacrifice some exposure for money – if that’s the case.

    Martens said he liked the player/coach opportunity he got in Wichita, and the ECHL doesn’t permit player/coach as an official title. So there’s also that. I hope to talk to Hogeboom soon and will blog the interview once I’ve gotten it.

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