-- The re-birth of hockey in Chicago can be traced to June 22, 2007. Thirteen days shy of three years later, the player who helped turn around a franchise and breathe new life into a moribund franchise, Patrick Kane
, lived the dream of any kid who ever picked up a hockey stick.
Kane's Stanley Cup-clinching goal 4:06 into overtime sparked a celebration 49 years in the making that ranged from the Wachovia Center ice to the "Miracle Mile" and all the way back to Buffalo.
"I can't believe this just happened," Kane said. "It's something you dream of as a kid. To score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final … it was just … it was unbelievable."
"It would be a storybook ending to a good Hollywood script," Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz told NHL.com. "Who would have thought we could do this?"
Count Patrick Sharp
among the doubters. When he got to Chicago in December 2005, the Blackhawks were floundering their way down the standings.
"I think we had as many fans at our games that we have on the ice now supporting us," Sharp said during the celebration.
But then Kane arrived, along with captain and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Toews
, and the culture changed.
"The pressure on those two kids since they got here really has been unbelievable," teammate Andrew Ladd told NHL.com. "The way they handled it was unbelievable."
Wednesday night as Kane skated slowly around the ice, with cameras and reporters following him around, all he had were wide eyes and a bright smile. He was relishing every second, from crying with his family to hugging his ever-growing legion of friends from Buffalo, to stopping and listening in awe as fans chanted "Chelsea Dagger" from the Wachovia Center stands.
Kane long has been lauded for his on-ice vision, and never was that more in focus than on the winning goal, which he snuck under Michael Leighton's pads from a sharp angle. There was no goal horn, no red light, but Kane began celebrating.
"We were just hoping that Kaner was right, and he seemed pretty sure the puck went in," Toews said. "We took his word for it."
"I saw it go right through the legs and sticking right under the pad in the net," Kane said. "I don't think anyone saw it in the net. I booked it to the other end. I knew it was in. I tried to sell the celebration a bit."
Kane also talked about how much he's learned this season, but one of the best lessons could best be summed up in the old saying, "Hockey is a kids' game played by men." Even if Kane, at just 21 years old, barely fits into the adult category.
"Sometimes as a professional athlete you might get caught up in the perks a little bit," he said, "but just to play this game, it's the only thing I want to do in this world and be part of moments like this."Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer