Retired goalie Scott Darling blasts NHL/NHLPA player assistance program: 'They're monsters'

The former NHL netminder made it clear he's no fan of the program designed to help players facing substance abuse and other mental health issues.

Scott Darling took quite an unconventional path to the NHL.
Scott Darling took quite an unconventional path to the NHL. (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Former Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling didn’t mince words when voicing his disdain for the NHL and NHLPA's joint player assistance program.

During a sit-down with the What Chaos! Podcast, Darling refuted a comment made by the show's host, Pete Blackburn, about the program being a "good thing" for the league and its players.

“F— them,” Darling said. “I told players [about] what I went through. If you need help, do it on your own. Don’t ever go through the PA. I’ll say, honestly, I hope you guys F—ng here this. They’re monsters.”

Darling says his biggest grievance with the program is that there is a looming threat of contract termination.

“They are trying to make you break your contract,” Darling said. “If you walk out the door, then the NHL can break your contract.”

(Warning: The following video and caption contain explicit language)

The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement does not explicitly state that a player can have their contract terminated for leaving the program. One NHL agent told Yahoo Sports that a departure from a program could, in some instances, equate to grounds for contract termination, however, the agent added that it would be “a complicated battle.”

Launched in 1996, the player assistance program was created to give employees access to a confidential phone line and counsellors in each city to assist players and their families with mental health, substance abuse and other personal matters.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard entered the program last Friday, citing issues with anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse. Last March, Florida Panthers goaltender Spencer Knight entered the program to receive help for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Former Canadiens star goalie Carey Price and retired NHL forward Bobby Ryan are among the higher-profile players to enter the program in recent years.

Darling, the backup netminder for Chicago when it won the Stanley Cup in 2015, says he believes the program needs people in place who actually want to help the players.

“If you can’t trust the people who are trying to help you, why the F— would you go through there?” Darling said.

Darling said he’s suffered from anxiety, depression, sexual trauma and alcohol abuse.

The 34-year-old is known for his unconventional, underdog path to the NHL. After two disappointing years at the University of Maine — where he was disciplined for partying too much — Darling started his pro career in the SPHL, which is three levels below the NHL. Before breaking into the NHL during the 2014-15 season, Darling spent parts of five seasons in the SPHL, ECHL and AHL.

After recording a .923 save % in 75 games across three seasons in Chicago, Darling signed a four-year, $16.7-million contract with the Hurricanes. But his game would ultimately plummet in Raleigh, posting a .887 save % in 51 contests across two seasons.

Darling took a leave of absence in Feb. 2019 while on assignment with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers and missed the remainder of the 2018-19 season before having his contract bought out the following offseason. Darling played overseas in Austria for the 2019-20 campaign and played one game for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2020-21 before hanging up his pads.