Blackhawks Raised Kane, and He Helped Raise Them

commentary editorial opinion

Nick Reiher

It seems like 1,000 years ago that I met Patrick Kane.
Son Andy and I decided to buy the weekend pass for the inaugural Blackhawks convention in 2008.
The thought of such a convention a few years before that would have been iffy, or downright laughable. The Hawks hadn’t been much since their last (unsuccessful) Cup appearance in 1991-92.
I hadn’t paid much attention to them since the late-‘70s, but Andy’s growing interest in hockey and the Hawks kept me linked in.
So, when I heard Hawks owner Art Wirtz had died and his son, Rocky, was taking over, I didn’t pay it much mind, at first. Would he be like his cheap father?
When I heard Rocky was bringing in John McDonough, who had worked wonders for the Cubs, as president, I was intrigued. When I heard McDonough was working to bring back former Hawk greats Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito as ambassadors, I thought it was a marketing ploy.
When Rocky brought in Scotty Bowman, who has more Cups as a coach than anyone, as general manager, it was bittersweet. His predecessor, Dale Tallon, had drafted some pretty good prospects, including Kane and Jonathan Toews.
So, it was an intriguing, if not exciting, proposal in 2008 to bring the long-suffering fans back into the fold, with the opportunity to meet some former stars, current players and the up-and-coming ones.
Something good must have been happening: When Rocky appeared in one of the large halls for a panel discussion, he got a standing ovation, leading him to wonder about a Wirtz getting such a reception.
Andy and I waiting in a bunch of lines, sometimes apart to double up on autographs. In one of them, Toews came toward the front to take his spot, slapping hands as he passed. He slapped mine.
I thought, “Can this young kid really lead us to the Cup? Even a winning season?”
In short time, he would become one of youngest players to be named a captain.
When I thought the new players couldn’t look any younger, I got to the table where Kane was signing autographs. Here was a high school kid whom they brought in as a whiz kid. A stickhandler like few others.
He was very nice. Very humble. Very appreciative when I said, “Welcome to the team.”
Toews and Kane, along with some really great talent brought in with them (Marian Hossa), would win three Stanley Cubs between 2010 and 2015, and were competitive in other years as well.
Toews was the leader, Hossa was the muscle and Kane, the heart, who had the puck on a string, scoring or assisting.
I and millions of others watched as Kane put the puck in the net from a weird angle to seal the 2010 Stanley Cup. I’m still amazed how it got in there. And he sealed the 2015 Cup, the first one won at home since the 1930s, with a late goal.
And now, he’s gone, with Toews the only one left from those glory days. He could help youngsters coming in, if he were healthy. But if he were, he likely would be traded, too.
As a fan, it’s tough. It has been tough, watching the team slowly devolve, wondering when the dismantling will be over, and the rebuilding can begin.
Unfortunately, that’s the situation with all of the Chicago teams at this point.
Sometimes I wonder, though. If someone at that convention had told me we would win three Cups in the next seven years, and be competitive in the others, would I take that, even if it meant a return to the bottom?
While it’s tough to experience failure after success, you can’t have one without the other.
Good luck, Kaner.

 

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