Will Ben Bishop bring the Stanley Cup to Orono if he and the Tampa Bay Lightning win it? How about Scott Darling if he raises the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks?

It’s selfish to even ask. Winning players can spend their day with the Stanley Cup any way they see fit. While it would be nice if either Bishop or Darling were to bring the best trophy in sports to the University of Maine, it’s enough to know that no matter what happens in the Stanley Cup finals, a Black Bear is getting his name on the Stanley Cup.

The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team prepares for Year 3 of the rebuilding process under head coach Red Gendron. While we wait for the Black Bears to contend in Hockey East and on the national stage, we can live vicariously through the playoff success of two alumni goalies. Ben Bishop is the starting goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Scott Darling is the backup goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Wednesday night in Tampa.

The Black Bears have sent dozens of players to the NHL, but the team’s list of Stanley Cup champions is relatively small. Either Bishop or Darling is going to become the fourth person with a UMaine connection to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Former Black Bear Dustin Penner won the Cup as a player for the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, and again for the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. Gendron was an assistant coach for the winning New Jersey Devils in 1995. Former player John Tortorella coached the Lightning to the Cup in 2004.

If you’re from Maine, or cheer for the Black Bears, it’s easy to root for either Bishop or Darling. If you need more of a reason, there’s this: both worked their butts off to reach this point in his career.

Tampa Bay is Bishop’s third NHL team. He spent time with the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators before finding his rhythm with the Lightning. He finished third in the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top goalie, voting last season. Prior to the 2013-14 season, when he became Tampa Bay’s starting goalie, Bishop never played more than 22 NHL games in a season. He did time in places like Peoria and Binghamton, biding his time in the AHL.


Bishop’s rise to the NHL was slow and steady. Darling’s, on the other hand, was glacial, an inch at a time.

Right now, Darling is Corey Crawford’s backup in Chicago, although Darling started five games in the playoffs for the Blackhawks this spring.

Darling played at Maine for two seasons. After leaving the program in 2010, he played for nine minor league teams before landing with the Blackhawks this season. Nine teams, some in minor league towns where hockey is more of an entertaining oddity than a way of life. Darling’s path from Orono to Chicago included stops in Lafayette, Louisiana; South Haven, Mississippi; Estero, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; Wheeling, West Virginia; Hamilton, Ontario; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Rockford, Illinois.

Darling has been an IceGator and an IceHog. He’s been a RiverKing and an Admiral. He’s been a force of nature (Thunder and Cyclone) and a bad regional pun (Everblade). Now he has a chance to end the two month grind that’s the Stanley Cup playoffs and drink from the best trophy in sports.

It will be easier to root for Bishop. He’s Tampa’s starting goalie, and unless Crawford get hurt or is downright terrible, Darling’s Stanley Cup experience is going to be limited to sitting at the end of Chicago’s bench listening to NBC’s Pierre McGuire talk too much.

Even so, Maine fans can feel confident picking either team to support. Either way, a Black Bear’s name will be on the list sent to the NHL’s engraver, and that’s a cool, cool thing.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242


Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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