Blackhawks fans are a passionate bunch, so it takes something above and beyond your typical jersey or face paint to stand out in this sea of red. But lifelong ‘Hawks fan Michael Rigitano is anything but typical. After the team won the Stanley Cup in 2010, he exceeded the normal boundaries of fandom and descended into something much deeper. On a dare, he built a life-size replica of Lord Stanley’s Cup — using bottle caps. Many, many thousands of bottle caps.
Since then, the Bottle Cap Stanley Cup has had a life of its own. Rigitano — a college student who also teaches children and adults how to play hockey — and his trophy were guests at the United Center and have appeared on TV, on the radio and in newspapers around Chicago. His creation helped raise money for breast cancer research at a Chicago Steel (USHL) game. The NHL even arranged for the “Cap Cup,” as he calls it, to be photographed with the real deal.
I spoke with Rigitano to learn what drove him to undertake such a monumental task.
Sal Barry: I’m going to just cut right to it — why did you make a replica of the Stanley Cup out of bottle caps?
Goaltender Scott Darling has been the surprise story for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. In two call-ups from the AHL this year, he has posted a 5-2 record and a 1.97 goals allowed average. A far cry from 2010, when Darling was near the bottom of the pro hockey landscape. Off-ice troubles led to him to leave the University of Maine after two seasons. And despite being drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007, he did not make their team.
But in 2011, Darling made a conscious choice to turn his life around. He stopped drinking alcohol, lost weight and worked diligently with his goaltending coach, Brian Daccord. Darling quickly moved up the pro hockey ranks, playing a second season in the Southern Professional Hockey League, then progressing to the ECHL and last year to the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals. The Blackhawks noticed Darling’s play in Milwaukee, and signed him to a two-way contract over the summer. He is currently the number one goalie for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
Born in Newport News, Virginia, Darling “moved around a ton until second grade,” living in Washington state and Alabama before his family finally settled in the Chicago suburb of Lemont. He followed the Blackhawks avidly during his youth. Now, he’s played seven games for them, and is likely to play more before the season is through. I recently spoke with Darling about his ascent to the NHL, being teammates with Gustav Nyquist in college, his appearance on “Road to the Winter Classic,” and getting into a goalie fight.
Sal Barry: What were your earliest hockey memories?
Scott Darling: When I lived just outside of Tacoma, Washington, my dad played goalie. I used to go watch him play in a men’s league. We also went to Tacoma Rockets games. We were season ticket holders. I was probably in…gosh..I don’t even know if I was in kindergarten yet. I used to go to every game. Those were probably my earliest hockey memories, going to the Rockets games and watching my dad play in a men’s league.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen has assembled quite the resume in his relatively young career. The Fredericton, New Brunswick native helped the Canadian Under-18 Team win the gold medal in 2008, and was named the tournament’s MVP. His showing was impressive enough for the Blues to draft him in the second round of that year’s NHL Entry Draft. Two years later, Allen won the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy as the top goalie in the QMJHL. He was also named the CHL Goaltender of the Year as the best goalie in major junior hockey.
In the 2012-13 season, Allen was called up by the St. Louis Blues, playing in 15 games. His nine wins, one shutout and 2.45 goals-allowed average in the lockout-shortened season netted him a spot on the 2013 NHL All-Rookie Team. The next year, Allen won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s top goaltender, when he led the league in goals against average (2.03), wins (33), save percentage (0.928%) and shutouts (7). His remarkable play earned him the backup role with the St. Louis Blues this year.
I recently spoke with Allen about his blossoming career, the differences between playing in the NHL and AHL and what goes through his mind during a shootout.
Sal Barry: What is your earliest memory of playing hockey?
The classic-era video game NHL ’94 celebrates its 20th anniversary this season, and remains as popular as ever. Originally released for Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sega CD and PC computers, NHL ’94 is still enjoyed by gamers today. This year’s release by Electronic Arts, NHL ’14, even included an “NHL ’94 Mode” that let’s players experience the run-and-gun style of the old game.
But some gamers still seek out the old-school, pixelated experience. Using emulation software, many play head-to-head via the internet in online leagues hosted by the website NHL94.com. Several of these gamers who still live and breathe NHL ’94 today share their fondest memories of the game. Continue reading “Gamers’ fondest memories of NHL ’94”