Drafting a budding superstar is one thing, the care and feeding of said superstar also is of vital importance to a team.
So when the Chicago Blackhawks selected Patrick Kane with the first pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, the Hawks knew they had someone special. The question was to maximize his importance. And during Kane's first camp with the Blackhawks, the team's executives knew he was going to stick. The next question was whether it was a good idea to have the 18-year-old Kane living on his own.
"I remember he came to training camp in September of that year and as the camp wore on, internally we knew he was going to be on our team," said Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks' GM, who was an assistant GM at the time of Kane's acquisition. "So we started thinking he was only 18-years-old at the time. We were trying to decide what do we want to do, because it's not an easy thing for a kid of that age to be in a big city like Chicago. Some different ideas were tossed around.
"I remember we went to him in early October, and we asked him about the living situation," Bowman said. "His answer to us was interesting. He said 'I'm just trying to make the team here. I don't even want to talk about. I'll live in a hotel all year if I have to. I want to play in the NHL.' At the time he wasn't concerned about maybe getting sent back to junior. So he didn't even want to talk about it."
Kane made the team and had a terrific rookie season, scoring 21 goals and 51 assists and he accomplished it as an unofficial member of Bowman's family, joining Bowman and his wife, Suzanne, and their two sons, Will and Camden.
"He had been in the hotel for six weeks at that point," Bowman recalled. "I said 'Why don't you come over, maybe stay at my place for a bit, have a couple of home-cooked meals?' And so he agreed to that, and we were into the season by that point.
He seemed to enjoy it. I have two little boys and he was living in the basement. He was an unassuming little kid, just trying to make the team and stay in the NHL."
"When I first came here from Buffalo, at first, I didn't know if I could live here, it's so big. It's such a big city," Kane said. "That's why it was good for me to stay with Stan for the first year and after that I moved into my own place once I got comfortable with the city.
"It seemed like as I grew myself, the city grew as Blackhawks fans. Now today, the city is just on fire as far as the Blackhawks go. I mean, you go anywhere you get noticed."
"There was still talk, even when the season began, 'Are they going to keep him past the 10-game mark or are they going to send him back?'" Bowman said. "He was so focused on staying in the NHL. We knew he wasn't going anywhere. We wanted to kind of keep that away from him. We let him think about that, and before you knew it, it was the end of October. I think he was the Rookie of the Month that year. He had a great start to his career.
"So it just kind of took off from there. He was comfortable. I remember talking to him and his parents along the way, and they just wanted to allow him to focus on hockey and not have to worry about what it's like to be living on your own. That was how it all materialized. It was a great experience for him and for me to get to know him. He's a special player. He's a great kid. I know him very well. And he's played a big part in getting our team to where we're at."
As for Kane, it was a situation similar to the one experienced by Sidney Crosby, who lived with Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and his family while breaking into the NHL.
"The kids were awesome," Kane smiled, recounting his time as a Bowman. "I used to play with them after dinner. They were a lot of fun. Sometimes they were disappointed when I couldn't play after a game because I was too tired.
"Even today, when I get to see them it's great," Kans said. "I couldn't have asked for a better place to stay. It was surreal to sit with Stan and get tips and learn what to do better. But it was like a friendship, not like he was the boss."
Today, he is a young man on his own and enjoying it.
"It's been awesome," Kane said. "My parents get to come and watch the games so I'm not on my own full-time. After doing that, I can't picture living with anyone else for a long time."
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director