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For Kane, future is now

Tuesday, 06.30.2009 / 5:16 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Patrick Kane couldn't admit any surprise Tuesday after finding out that he was among the 34 players invited to participate in the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp next month.

USA Hockey made the announcement on its web-site at noon, but as one of the poster boys for the organization's youth movement, everyone pretty much figured Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks' sensational right wing, would be on that list.

Nevertheless, for Kane, that fact didn't take any of the luster away from the honor.

Seeing his name officially, finally, associated with USA Hockey and the Olympics was quite a thrill. It allowed Kane, a Buffalo native, the chance to remember back to when he was still a kid (he's only 20) looking up at USA Hockey legends like Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Tony Amonte.

He always wanted to be just like them, and now he's one step closer.

"It does (feel different), actually," Kane said. "You hear a lot about it from the last couple of years, but finally you can see your name mentioned in the Olympic category. I have always been a big USA Hockey fan and a big USA Hockey supporter. Hopefully I can be on that team and have kids looking up to me."

Kane is one of the reasons for USA Hockey's monumental philosophical shift. Team USA General Manager Brian Burke fully expects to ice the youngest team at the Olympics in February and that much is evident by the players that were invited to the orientation camp.

Kane is the youngest at 20, but only one of 17 players who are 24 or younger. Only six of the 34 invitees are 30 or older, with Modano being the oldest at 39.

"It's a big goal to play in Vancouver, so I'm excited to get the chance," Modano, a three-time Olympian, told the Dallas Morning News. "But I know this is just the first step, and they'll be making the choices based on how we play during the regular season."

"You hear a lot about it from the last couple of years, but finally you can see your name mentioned in the Olympic category. I have always been a big USA Hockey fan and a big USA Hockey supporter. Hopefully I can be on that team and have kids looking up to me." -- Patrick Kane
Kane said he recently spoke with Nashville GM David Poile, who is serving as Team USA's Associate GM, last week about what to expect in camp. Concurrent with what Burke said on a conference call earlier Tuesday, Kane doesn't believe the on-ice portion of the orientation camp will be as essential as the off-ice portion.

Part of the idea for this camp is for the invitees to get a taste of the system Team USA coach Ron Wilson plans to implement while the other part will give the players and management staff a chance to get to know one another on a more personal level.

Of course, some of the players have played together either in the NHL or through USA Hockey, but the off-ice activities will give them a chance to get close because if Burke gets his wish, the final roster of 23 players will come out of this camp and he wants a close-knit team.

Still, though, this camp will serve as a bonus to the 34 players. Instead of playing games of shinny with their buddies or just working out in the gym, they'll get on the ice for at least an hour a day with some of the best the United States has to offer.

"Obviously I have to work hard this summer, make sure I'm ready to go a little earlier than usual, so I can have a good showing at the USA Camp in August," Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter told NashvillePredators.com. "The same things make me better for the NHL season."

A good first half will go a long way toward securing a coveted spot on the Olympic roster, something that finally doesn't seem so farfetched to talk about.

"You finally feel (the Olympics are) coming up with the orientation camp coming up," Kane said. "It's an honor to be in that group and it's a step in the right direction. There would be no better feeling than to be a part of that team in Vancouver."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com