Thank you, Kaner


A new era of Chicago Blackhawks hockey is here. Finally. Unfortunately. Sadly.

Ever since June 22, 2007, Patrick Kane has been synonymous with Blackhawks hockey. That changed on Tuesday night, with the official announcement of Kane being dealt to the New York Rangers ahead of Friday’s trade deadline. Joining him en route to the Rangers was defenseman Cooper Zech, with the Blackhawks receiving a conditional 2023 second-round pick, a 2025 fourth-round pick and defensemen Andy Welinski and Vili Saarijarvi in return.

Despite the deal being widely anticipated since the weekend, the reality is still surreal in the aftermath. Gone is a franchise icon, arguably the best Blackhawk of all-time, who headlined the most successful era on the ice in team history, which is no small claim being an Original Six franchise with nearly 100 years of history in the books thus far.

When then-general manager Dale Tallon stepped to the podium on that fateful Friday night in Columbus nearly 16 years ago (and I remember it well, sitting in the 300 level of Nationwide Arena that night), the Blackhawks were a cellar-dwelling team with very little going for it. Chicago largely did not embrace the team or the sport after years of futility. The roar of the old Chicago Stadium a distant memory and the United Center serving as the home of the Chicago Bulls, and some other team that struggled to fill the lower bowl on the best of nights.

Cue a couple of baby-faced teenagers donning the red, white and black in the fall of 2007, and the franchise would change forever. Kane and his longtime running mate Jonathan Toews were starting the process of making Chicago a hockey town. Almost overnight, Chicago rediscovered its love for hockey and the Hawks. The United Center once again became the Madhouse on Madison, filled to the rafters with crazed fans ready to experience a new chapter on the ice. Cue Showtime.

While Kane and Toews showed flashes out of the gate—including Kane winning the Calder Memorial Trophy that season as the NHL’s rookie of the year—the team’s success took a little longer to catch up, as the team failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2008 before ultimately breaking through in 2009 en route to a surprising trip to the Western Conference Final against the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings. Despite falling to their vaunted rivals, the upstart Blackhawks were on the cusp of something special, and that 2009 playoff run provided invaluable experience to the team’s young core.

The summer of 2009 saw the signing of future Hockey Hall of Famer Marian Hossa, and with it, the indisputable reality the Blackhawks would be ascending to the league’s elite in short order, with a well-rounded and deep roster filled with talented youth and complemented nicely with veteran leadership.

Once the 2009–10 season began, it would not take long for the team to show it was capable of anything. On Oct. 12, 2009, just five games into the campaign, the Blackhawks would pull off the comeback of a lifetime. Finding themselves with a 5–0 deficit midway through the first period of their game against the visiting Calgary Flames, the Hawks began chipping away, managing to pull even at 5–5 early in the third period before Brent Seabrook’s game-winner early in overtime. Kane would lead the way in the comeback with a goal and two helpers.

That newfound confidence clearly flipped the switch for the team, as they proved to themselves and the world they were never out of a game. Fast forward to April 24, 2010, and the Blackhawks played comeback kids again, this time when it really mattered. With the Hawks trailing by a goal late in the third and looking for the equalizer, Hossa committed a five-minute major penalty for boarding Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis with just 1:03 remaining in regulation. The veteran, who was coming off of back-to-back losses in the Stanley Cup Final, surely thought he had just doomed his team, with the Predators on the cusp of claiming a 3–2 series lead. Kane had other plans. Despite not being a stereotypical penalty killer, Kane found himself on the ice in dire circumstances, and cashed in big time, scoring the equalizer with 13 seconds left in the game—undoubtedly the biggest goal of Kane’s career, to that point. But Chicago still had four minutes’ worth of Hossa’s penalty to kill off to open overtime, and they found a way through. In magical fashion, Hossa turned the tables by going from scapegoat to overtime hero, coming out of the penalty box and heading straight for the net, where a redirected shot found his stick. Hossa made no mistake from there, and that again gave the Blackhawks the confidence that they were never out of a game.

The Hawks would never look back, defeating the Predators, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks to find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers. After five games, the Blackhawks held a 3–2 series advantage, with a chance to break their historic 49-year Stanley Cup drought in the City of Brotherly Love on June 9, 2010. The Hawks seemed primed to win in regulation, but Scott Hartnell would level the score at 3–3 with four minutes left in the third, ultimately sending the game to overtime. Four minutes into the extra frame, Kane would create the most iconic moment in franchise history, scoring one of the most memorable goals in NHL history. After receiving a pass on the half board from Brian Campbell, Kane danced his way toward the corner around Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and fired a quick shot at the feet of Philadelphia netminder Michael Leighton. Leighton could not get down in time, and Kane’s shot found the underside of the padding in the goal, clinching the Stanley Cup and breaking the longest championship drought in professional sports history at the time. But the goal was not celebrated like a Cup-clinching goal typically would be, as the puck was not visible in the net, which caused confusion throughout the arena. Kane knew (as did I, for the record, as I jumped off my couch once I saw the trajectory of the shot), and immediately began celebrating, but he was one of the very few who realized what had happened, with the majority of players, referees, announcers and fans left trying to figure out where the puck was. After a quick review, Kane’s goal stood and his legacy was officially established.

That legacy would be plenty for the average player. But not for Kane. He was just getting started.

The list of awards and achievements Kane has racked up is nothing short of remarkable: Nine-time NHL all-star, three-time Stanley Cup champion, 2008 Calder Memorial Trophy winner, 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and of course his banner 2015–16 season that saw him win the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. In 1,161 games with the Blackhawks, Kane posted 446 goals, 779 assists and 1,225 points. In postseason action, Kane registered another 52 goals, 80 assists and 132 points in 136 games. That is an all-time resume, as was evidenced by Kane’s selection to the NHL’s top 100 players of all-time in 2017.

But not only did Kane have the quantity, he also produced countless moments of quality, too. Who can forget his mesmerizing shootout goal in Minnesota against Niklas Backstrom? Backstrom’s jock still dangles from the Xcel Energy Center rafters to this day. Of course there’s the spin-o-rama goals and assists, perhaps none more memorable than his no-look cross-ice helper to a wide-open Hossa against Anaheim in 2011. Or what about his Bobby Orr-esque goal against Montreal in 2016, dancing through the defense before firing the puck home midair? There’s the playoff “OT GWGs” (in the words of the one and only Pat Foley). There’s the iconic top shelf backhand snipes, such as the one against Minnesota in 2014. There’s the hat trick against Los Angeles in the 2013 playoffs, capped by his signature heartbreaker celebration after scoring the double overtime winner to send the Hawks back to the Stanley Cup Final. There’s even the overtime (almost) buzzer-beating slapper in his final home game at the United Center. And yes, then there’s the Cup winner in Philly. Truthfully, there’s too many to list, too many to even remember. The memories will last a lifetime.

Thank you for those countless memories, from your game-winning shootout goal against your boyhood idol Dominik Hasek in your first-ever regular season game in the United Center all the way to your scorching hot streak in your final games wearing the Indian head, making us all reminisce on these 16 marvelous years and feel like we were all back in the glory days.

Will it sting for a while to know Kane’s days in Chicago are over? Absolutely. Did Kane fully earn the ability to determine the next step of his illustrious career? Absolutely. Should Blackhawks fans excitedly watch the rest of Kane’s career unfold and cheer for more Showtime, regardless of the sweater he wears? Absolutely. And I, for one, look forward to it.

Thank you, Kaner.

Center Ice Forums Thank you, Kaner

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    Eric Andrews

    A new era of Chicago Blackhawks hockey is here. Finally. Unfortunately. Sadly. Ever since June 22, 2007, Patrick Kane has been synonymous with Blackha
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