Early in Wednesday night's debut episode of "NHL 36" on Versus, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane discusses the differences between his hometown of Buffalo and his hockey-season residence of Chicago.
"It was crazy when I first got here, the traffic and everything, it was just so different," Kane says over burritos in Chicago's Loop on a Sunday afternoon, sitting across from his father, Pat. This was the second of 36 consecutive hours that NHL Original Productions would follow Kane for its new "NHL 36" documentary series narrated by actor Peter Coyote.
Kane is clearly more comfortable in Chicago these days, playing in his fifth season although he's just 23 years old. Scoring the 2010 Stanley Cup winning goal for a title-parched sports town can help with that.
Between bites, Kane talks about enjoying a day off before facing Phoenix on Monday night: "It's nice to walk around and act like a regular kid."
Maybe that kid-like mindset explains why Kane appears composed rather than flustered about not scoring in the last eight games before Chicago would host Phoenix the next night. Kane goofs with sales personnel in the Michigan Avenue Blackhawks gear store, highlighted by a funny bit that jabs at fellow boy-wonder teammate Jonathan Toews. Kane shoots his dad a mock-hurt look when Pat orders the Sharpie Steak Burrito (named after teammate Patrick Sharp) and not the Kane Con Queso Chicken Burrito.
One of Kane's Sunday stops is to drop the ceremonial puck at the annual charity hockey game between Chicago's police and fire departments. Before the game, Kane spends private time with family members who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. Fans (especially parents of 20-somethings) will be impressed with Kane's demeanor and sensitivity.
The camera and sound work throughout "NHL36: Kane" is inventive -- no surprise when you realize Emmy-winning executive producer Ross Greenburg is involved in a partnership with the NHL on the new series. The most memorable sequences show Kane at his multifaceted playmaking best: passes squarely on a linemate's stick blade, a flick-touch redirection of the puck to steer it into the offensive zone, dangerous shots on goals that include one clanging of the crossbar.
Accompanying sound is equally revealing and not ordinary. Viewers hear Kane's effort in the grunts and skate scraping. You will see it on Kane's face -- and his trademark mouth guard champing -- as he goes deep into Game No. 9 without a goal. Chicago fans already know it, and, spoiler alert, the episode pays off when Kane scores on a precisely pretty pass from foil/best friend Toews to complete a three-goal comeback and put the Phoenix game into overtime. Viewers get all the replays and camera angles they need to see how Toews and Kane click on such a play, complete with Kane flat on his back in celebration (he slipped after scoring) yelling "what a pass" as Toews approaches.
In perhaps the best on-ice footage, Kane is urging his teammates, including veterans like Marian Hossa and Daniel Carcillo, plus Toews, that "the cross-ice is open." Hossa, who recently scored his 400th goal, listens intently. In that singular moment of the 36 hours, you get a glimpse why Chicago won the Cup and sits near the top of the Western Conference this season.
NHL 36: Patrick Kane will re-air on Versus Dec. 29 at 9:30 a.m., Jan. 1 at 5:00 p.m. and on the newly rebranded NBC Sports Network on Jan. 6 at 9 a.m. It will also air in the United States and Canada on the NHL Network on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. and again Dec. 18 at 1 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
NHL 36: Patrick Kane is the first in a series of 10 episodes that will shadow NHL players for 36 consecutive hours. The next player to be featured and the air dates will be announced at a later date.