Photo By: John Warren / Brampton Beast
It’s the meat and potatoes of the game. Hockey on the East Coast of Canada is fast-paced, hard hitting and everywhere—home of quality and quantity.
Hockey was the currency of small towns of the Maritime Provinces. It’s a lifestyle that everyone lives by and is the life and blood of every small town with a funny name. As a kid born in Halifax and raised by the salty waters of Prince Edward Island, David Ling found a stick in his hand before he had a diaper on.
In P.E.I., streets were made to play road hockey and kids played outside until it was too dark to see. Ling, like many, was a little brother with something to prove—tagging along to play street hockey with the older kids. With a pure love for the game and constant scalping for a clear sheet of ice, David learned, what he would call, the meat and potatoes of hockey.
The talent of stick handling ran in the family, both of his parents played hockey in their college years. Off the ice, the TV lit up every game at the Ling residence and their living room was painted blue and white for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“My grandfather and my dad were Leafs fans, I was kind of forced into being a Leafs fan,” Ling explained. “The Detroit Red Wings were my team, so there were a lot of fights in the living room on Hockey Night in Canada.”
When most kids were idolizing Wayne Gretzky, Ling lived vicariously through his hometown hockey hero Gerard Gallant of the Detroit Red Wings, and also found himself inspired by longtime Wings captain Steve Yzerman.
Ling’s road to the NHL, like any good story, came with a few scars and a lot of hard work. It was more than just meat and potatoes; it was a three-course meal.
His storied junior career with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, in which he amassed 115 goals and 275 points in just 175 games between 1992 and 1995, prepared him for the transition into the big leagues.
“You’re playing against men instead of 16-year-old boys, you can’t take any nights off when you’re playing against them or you’ll get buried or hurt,” Ling said of his inaugural pro season with the Saint John Flames of the American Hockey League in 1995-96.
“The game has changed a lot, but hockey is hockey.”
Ling reached the pinnacle of his hockey career during the 1996-97 season as he laced up his skates for the Montreal Canadiens, making his NHL debut at the historic Montreal Forum on Hockey Night in Canada.
Ling, lauded for his longevity, remained in top form, seemingly for decades, making appearances with the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets between 1996 and 2003.
“I liked playing anywhere,” he said. “You know when you’re playing in the NHL you’re on a high.”
After suiting for just under 100 games in the NHL, Ling went overseas to Europe, playing for teams in Russia, Finland and Switzerland.
“I got to see a lot of the world and play some good hockey,” Ling said.
With the end of the 2015-16 season fast approaching, Ling will be capping off his 21st year of professional hockey. What’s the secret to Ling’s career longevity? He tells it simply.
“I love playing,” he said with a smile. “I enjoy the guys and I enjoy the game, and that’s the reason I keep going.”
Earlier this season, Ling started the year with Nottingham in the Elite Ice Hockey League and as usual, put up impressive numbers, including 14 goals and 46 points in just 34 games. In spite of his success overseas, he jumped at the opportunity to return for a second stint with the Beast.
Ling credits his permanence on the ice to his smaller frame and staying relatively injury-free throughout his career. Through all the years of playing hockey, retiring four times, and coming back to play for another season—for Ling, it all boils down to the love of the game. If history repeats itself, we haven’t seen the last of David Ling.