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Kane chillin' before going to work

Not that this meets the criteria for hard news, but the summer after my senior year of high school consisted mostly of hanging out with my buddies, working in a hot dog joint and spending as little time at home as possible. OK, so maybe I celebrated a few times with an occasional beer.

Patrick Kane's half-summer after high school has included being selected first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, throwing out the first pitch and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at a Cubs game, becoming a household name in the hockey world and receiving a key to the City of Buffalo.

All together now: Boooor-ing.

Earlier this week, the 18-year-old from McKinley Parkway played in Kevyn Adams' golf tournament at Glen Oak to benefit the Kevin Guest House. Kane spent the afternoon hanging out with his father, schmoozing with Scotty Bowman, getting pats on the back and confirming he's the nicest kid this side of Prince William.

"It's been pretty fun," Kane said. "I don't think it's sunk in yet, being the first pick overall. It's fun coming back to Buffalo because nobody really treats me different, like all my buddies. It's fun to just hang out with them, chill and have some time off."

You know what qualifies as pretty fun for the rest of us? Try hitting Darien Lake or the ultimate hat trick -- Go-Karts, Putt-Putt and ice cream. The beautiful thing for Kane is that it's only going to get better. He's about to make a boatload of money playing a sport he's adored since diapers, a game that fueled his tireless work ethic.

Kane hasn't hired an agent, mainly because he needs one the way Tiger needs a Buick. No minimum wage for this kid, not with hands that can slip a 20-foot wrister through a keyhole. Negotiations with Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon should last no more than 10 seconds.

Kane: I'll take three years and $2.625 million, also known as the rookie max.

Tallon: Sign here.

Kane impressed his new bosses last week during rookie camp, but that's not to say he'll waltz into the NHL and start working on his speech for the Hall of Fame. Already, critics question whether the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Kane is able, wonder if he has the size and toughness to become an NHL superstar.

In fact, he knows it's not going to be easy. Nobody in the NHL will care that he's only 18 or the first pick overall or the kind of kid they want baby-sitting their kids. There are No. 1 picks splashed all over the NHL who struggled in their first year on the job, and all were bigger.

So far, size hasn't mattered. He's always been one of the smallest players on his team, but he's been tearing up every level since he was a Cazenovia mite. He was a rookie in the Ontario Hockey League last season, hardly a league for sissies, and was its best player by a mile. He dominated the World Junior Championships with five goals in seven games.

And he'll get every chance to succeed. Other than Erik Johnson, who was in college, and Alexandre Daigle, who played 616 career games, every No. 1 pick since Joe Murphy in 1986 spent last season in the NHL. It includes, gasp, Pierre Turgeon, selected by the Sabres in 1987. Kane was born, double-gasp, a year later.

"You look back in the past couple years, and there was a little talk about me around here," Kane said. "The whole family seemed to come around the whole thing and support me. It's been really fun. It gave us something to do."

On Friday, he's celebrating with the usual high school graduation-NHL draft party. World junior camp starts Aug. 3, the Blackhawks about a month later. So much for chilling out with his buddies. Then again, every 18-year-old should get a job at some point.


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