Issue 99

Cover Story, The Negotiator, Darren Banks and Derek Stevens By D.J. Telfer

The Negotiator, Darren Banks and Derek Stevens

Darren (Banksy’s) Banks was born in Toronto but his family moved to McKay Street in Windsor when he was still very young. He was just like any another Canadian kid growing up in the Border City, he played street hockey in the summer with his neighbourhood buddies and at the arenas in the winter. But once he got onto the ice Darren was more than ordinary, he was brutishly good.

“I was a good skater,” he said. “and I was a big kid and I liked playing a physical game."

From the very beginning Darren was supremely confident in his abilities declaring he would one day be playing in the NHL.

“I am playing pro hockey...I guarantee it!” He would often boast to his friends.

It was not an idle boast, Darren would go on to play pro and semi-pro hockey for 15 years.

He was a hulking, strong, young man when he began his pro hockey career in 1989. He started off in the Calgary Flames organization but never got the call-up to play with the parent club; he then signed as a free agent with Boston in 1992 where he did have the opportunity to play with the Bruins.

“That was the most exciting time,” he said. “I’ll not forget my first real game in the NHL. Just stepping out onto the ice at the Gardens, looking up at a sold-out cheering crowd, it was crazy, it was the most electrifying experience of my life.”

On the ice Darren was intimidating. He liked delivering crushing body checks and wasn’t opposed to ‘negotiating’ with his fists. He knew it was his primary role through-out his career to be an enforcer, it was a role he embraced saying, “it was really enjoying.” But he also relished every offensive point he earned, “it’s always felt great to score a goal.” He said.

Pummelling and hard-hitting was his job and he liked his job but when the day was done Darren left his work at the office. Like Jekyll and Hyde, he was a completely different person off the ice.

“It was a switch,” he said, referring to his controlled personality change, “a mental switch I turned off and on...and what ever happened out on the ice stayed on the ice.”

Although his NHL career was short-lived he left his mark. He played in just 20 games for the Boston Bruins, but in those games he amassed 73 penalty minutes.

Darren would keep playing and coaching semi-pro hockey until 2004. His career totals: 634 games, 266 points, 3,124 penalty minutes.

He said there was always a running bet with his teammates to the question, “Do you think I can get through this game without a penalty?”

And though his career is dotted with highlights one of the more special moments came with the Detroit Vipers in the late 90s and the year they won the Turner Cup.

“No matter what league you play in you want to win,” he said, adding, “it doesn’t matter if it’s pro, semi-pro or juniors, you always want to win the league championship.”

An intimidating figure on the ice, Darren is somewhat a contradiction of terms off the ice. This hockey tough guy is really an affable and warmly sociable man. With a degree in Sociology and Philosophy from Brock and Bowling Green Universities, Darren has the brains to go along with his brawn.

“I’m a thinker.” He said with a broad smile. “And I’m a people person, I love interacting with others and meeting new people.”

It’s how he got his present job. It’s how he landed an almost too-good-to-be-true opportunity in Las Vegas. Today, Darren is the Executive Casino Host for “the D Las Vegas” casino in downtown Las Vegas. He got the job doing what he does best (no, not knocking heads silly) by making connections and fostering relationships.

In this instance he was riding in a Limo with two brothers he had met from Grosse Pointe. Two Michigan boys Darren and Derek Stevens who had bought a casino in Vegas and were looking for someone to help bring in guests and gamblers. Someone with an enthusiastic if not aggressive personality. Someone with connections in the world of professional sports. Someone such as Darren Banks, whom they felt would fit the role like a fist in a glove. Make that a kidskin glove.

It is Darren’s job to be welcoming and attentive. It is his job to access his own vast network of friends and players and get the word out about “the D Las Vegas” Casino on Fremont Street.

“It’s a fun place with the most captivating and exciting entertainment in Vegas,” He said. “We have the best steak house in town and we have something no other casino has, we have beautiful dancing dealers.”

Darren is also host for a variety of events like “Banksy’s Celebrity Golf Classic At the D” a tournament which includes former NHL players Grant Fuhr, Darren Veitch, Owen Nolan and Randy Burridge, to name a few. The tournament takes place August 8.

Today, Darren continues to live in Las Vegas but his mother whom he describes as “the nicest lady he knows” still lives in Windsor and he visits her often. Recently Darren was in town for the annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride. For Banksy it is important to pay his respects and to remember the former NHL tough guy and although he never went toe to toe with his fellow Windsorite he believes if such an encounter had of taken place he would have come out on top.

“You know,” Darren said with a wry grin, “I always wanted to fight Probert but I never had the opportunity,” he paused and his grin widened, “I know I could have beat him.”

He doesn’t work the ‘corners’ anymore, he works the floor. He’s not checking people into the boards, he’s helping them check into their rooms and usually the only ice he sees these days are the ice cubes in the drinks. And while he does not have any interest in coaching hockey or getting back into the sport Darren did express his excitement in the prospect of an NHL team coming to Las Vegas.

“I would really like to see a team in Vegas” he said, “and I certainly would want to be involved.”

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