-- Patrick Kane
is now legal everywhere.
At his Calgary locker-room stall Thursday morning, though, the Chicago Blackhawks
star was ... how shall we put it ... slightly cautious.
"I've got a lot of birthday wishes, which was good. I was expecting a bit of a prank," said Kane, who will celebrate his 21st birthday with a game against the Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
"Actually, I've got the big prank machine now," revealed the native of Buffalo, N.Y., with a big grin. "I've got this phone (device) ... say I was calling (teammate and prankster Patrick Sharp
), I could (program) it so it would look like a call from (Jonathan) Toews. So I think (Sharp's) a little worried now. I think he's trying to stay low.
"So, yeah, it's been good so far -- no pranks. It's been pretty low-key, to be honest. For your 21st birthday, you usually do it up pretty good. Growing up watching the Sabres, I'd always check the schedule to see if the Sabres played on my birthday so I could maybe go to the game for my birthday present.
"It's a good feeling. Being 21, it's pretty cool. This is a good birthday. Everyone says once you turn 21 you don't want to get any older."
The 2008 Calder Trophy winner has, however, come of age a little earlier than he expected. As everyone in the hockey world knows, Kane was arrested Aug. 9 following an incident with a cab driver in Buffalo, who claimed he was assaulted after Kane and his cousin demanded 20 cents in change from a $15 fare. The third-year Blackhawk pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but all other charges were dropped.
Kane and the Blackhawks, who entered Thursday's game leading the Central Division with a 12-5-2 record, are kicking off their first major road trip of the season -- seven games -- after winning their past four on United Center ice.
They're starting the junket in Western Canada, where hockey is king and the scrutiny is intense. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound right wing expects the subject of his arrest to be raised continually, and says the August altercation already has changed the way he conducts himself in public.
"I still feel I'm the same kid at heart. Obviously situations like that open your eyes a little bit," said Kane, who leads Chicago with 19 points, including 12 assists, through the club's first 19 games. "It was a tough situation. You never want to go through that. Obviously, the only story you guys heard was what the cab driver said.
"The worst kind of came out of the situation, but at the same time, I think maybe it was better that it happened sooner rather than later. You can take a positive from a bad situation. Pretty much every (situation) I treat now, when I'm out to dinner or walking down the street, I'm going to treat like it's going to be publicized, and like it's going to be put in the media."
Kane was subjected to the comedy stylings of Toronto coach Ron Wilson just last Friday over the incident. Wilson, surrounded by reporters, saw Kane walking by in the United Center hallway, and called out, "Hey Patrick, I've got some spare change."
Said Kane: "It's one of those situations ... yeah, I wish it didn't happen, but at the same time, could it help you grow as a person? I think so. (Being 21 brings) ... a little bit of freedom, but at the same time it comes with responsibility. You've got to be smart with what you're doing."
"You can take a positive from a bad situation. Pretty much every (situation) I treat now, when I'm out to dinner or walking down the street, I'm going to treat like it's going to be publicized, and like it's going to be put in the media." -- Patrick Kane
Kane also has been dealing with another, more palatable, off-ice issue over the past few days.
Published reports suggest Kane and Toews, who broke into the NHL together in 2007-08, are on the verge of signing long-term deals. Loose ends apparently are being tied up at present, but it's been suggested both players will sign five-year contracts worth $6 million per season.
"I don't think there'd be a better birthday present, to be honest with you," Kane said. "But right now, it's just all speculation and rumors. My agent and (GM) Stan (Bowman) and the Blackhawks organization are negotiating, but nothing's done yet."