He resided near Barry Road in the Northland. Put on a show by skating behind the Zamboni at Kemper Arena, acting as if he was water skiing. Led the Kansas City Blades in scoring over a two-season span.
Welcome back, David Ling.
Ling — quite a character, and definitely a force at forward in the twilight years of the Blades — has returned to the area this weekend. He will be in uniform for the Brampton Beast, which is in town to face the Missouri Mavericks at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Independence Events Center.
“We had good teams when I played for the Blades,” Ling, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, said by phone earlier this week. “I enjoyed playing there. I put up some good numbers. When you do that, you have fun anywhere you are playing.”
As Ling nears a milestone birthday, he is one of a diminishing number of former Blades who still lace up the skates. It has been more than a decade since the Blades made Kansas City home. The franchise, highlighted by winning the International Hockey League’s Turner Cup championship in 1991-92, folded in June 2001.
Ling, who played in 2013-14 in Italy with former Blades goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin, appeared to be on the verge of retirement after playing in only 14 games last season. In the fall, however, he began to field calls from prospective teams, some of them overseas. In his globetrotter career, Ling has played in Russia, England and numerous places in between.
When Brampton (a suburb of Toronto) recently inquired, it made the most sense to Ling, who has more obligations than he did as a 20-something young man in Kansas City. Entering Friday, Ling had played two games for Brampton, registering an assist in his first game with the team Wednesday.
“I have a couple of sons now (Bates, 10, and Dylan, 6, who live in Syracuse, N.Y.). This puts me closer to them,” said Ling, who played two seasons in Kansas City, leading the Blades in points with 72 in 1998-99 and 83 in 1999-2000. The last season here was special for Ling — his brother, Jamie, played part of it for the Blades.
“David Ling was a great player. He was very small (5-feet-10), but he played like he was 6-feet-2, didn’t back down from anybody,” said Blades standout center Gary Emmons, who later was an assistant for coach Paul MacLean. “He was a clown, kept everybody laughing. He’d leave his false teeth in someone’s drink.”
Fans who attended the Mavericks’ New Year’s Eve game Wednesday said they certainly remember Ling.
“He was feisty,” said Stephanie Goldberg.
Mike Brennan added, “He was the kind of player I really liked to watch. He had good hands. He could score. And he wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves if needed.”
In his pre-Kansas City days, Ling was a legend for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. During that time the Quebec Nordiques drafted Ling in the seventh round in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He realized his NHL dream when he played for Montreal in 1996-97. While playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002-03, Ling scored the first of his four career NHL goals.
“I think it was in Dallas, off of a face-off. I went to the net, got a rebound,” said Ling, who played 93 NHL games.
He has the puck in a plaque. Where it is, well, that’s another story. By playing for nearly 20 different teams in his career, Ling has done lots of packing and moving.
“It’s in a box somewhere. I just haven’t settled anywhere,” he said.
Ling, who turns 40 next Friday, is uncertain how long he will play.
“I’ll finish this year, then who knows? This is just something I’ve always done. Sometimes you think you’re ready to quit, but you get that drive again,” said Ling, who keeps in touch with former Blades Dody Wood and Jon Rohloff.
Although he expects to see a few familiar faces tonight, Ling views his return as a time-doesn’t-stand-still experience.
“To be honest with you, coming back is different,” Ling said. “Different rink. Different team. The International Hockey League no longer exists. Fifteen years later, it’s totally different. But you still want to show people what you can do.”