You can say Patrick Kane’s hockey career has been a wild ride, so it’s fitting the South Buffalo native opted for a trio of crazy rides Saturday.
To celebrate his day with the Stanley Cup, the Chicago Blackhawks winger toured Western New York in a limousine bus and emerged from a military humvee and a Zamboni holding hockey’s holy grail aloft for adoring fans to see.
“Any time you can come back to Buffalo and bring the Stanley Cup, it’s a great thing for me,” Kane said Saturday morning during a visit to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
From No. 1 overall draft pick to two-time Stanley Cup champion to Olympic silver medalist to Conn Smythe Trophy winner — and all by age 24 — Kane has become one of the biggest names in the NHL. Each player on the winning team gets the Cup for a 24-hour period and Kane made a big entrance with it at Hangar 907 in Niagara Falls.
Wearing his red Chicago sweater, Kane emerged from inside the humvee with the Cup as it rolled toward the giant hangar filled with military personnel and family.
“It was awesome. I gotta get myself one of those. It’s a pretty sweet car,” Kane joked. “When you’re going through it, you’re thinking, ‘This is surreal, a moment not too many civilians can have.’ ”
Kane thanked servicemen for their work and said his venue choice was an easy one because of the way the Blackhawks honor military personnel during the national anthem and again during the third period each night in the United Center.
“For you guys to give up your personal lives and sacrifice for what you do for our country is unbelievable,” Kane told the crowd. “I can carry around a Stanley Cup that’s 35 pounds or an MVP trophy that’s brought along with us here today but you guys carry our country on your back. It’s really amazing.”
For two hours, personnel lined up to take pictures with the Cup while Kane and his family toured a military plane and then took more pictures and signed autographs.
Wearing a red Kane jersey, St. Bonaventure journalism student Gavin Lindahl of Youngstown let out a huge whoop as he walked behind the Cup for a picture.
“That is the trophy. There is nothing like that,” said Lindahl, who learned of the appearance late Friday night from his father, Master Sargeant Gary Beaty. “That’s what everyone who likes hockey, plays hockey, knows anything about hockey wants to see. And to see the Conn Smythe, see my favorite player, you can’t beat it. Emotions just got me. I got up there and let it go.”
While on the base, Kane also met members of the Buffalo Sled Veteran Warriors and the Buffalo Warriors Hockey Team. From there, it was on to Imperial Pizza on Abbott Road in South Buffalo as nearly a thousand people jammed the parking lot for more photo ops and a brief congratulations from Mayor Byron Brown.
The day was capped for a couple thousand fans, including several hundred youth hockey players, who lined up along Union Road to meet Kane at the West Seneca Town Rink.
Approaching the rink he played in for five years with the West Seneca Wings, Kane rolled up on the Zamboni and the crowd surged at him with cameras and cell phones as he again held the trophy high.
“It was a thrill of a lifetime, riding in and being on the back of the Zamboni carrying the Stanley Cup,” Kane said, “with all the little kids and people wearing the jersey that you once wore, screaming your name.”
The Cup celebration is pretty much the end of Kane’s summer. He will be among 48 players heading to the Team USA Olympic orientation camp Monday and Tuesday in Arlington, Va. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, the star of the 2010 Vancouver Games as Team USA lost the gold-medal game in overtime to Canada, is one of six netminders invited.
And the Blackhawks are less than three weeks from starting training camp after a season that didn’t end until their Game Six win in Boston on June 24.
“I remember last time we won, the summer seemed short and it was three months,” Kane said. “It’s hockey though. You got to be excited to play. I think everyone’s going to show up for training camp, do the best we can to get ready for the season, try to get off to a hot start again like we did last year and let that propel us in the playoffs.”
“It’s always a fun day,” he said. “You see everybody before, my family and my friends, then seeing everybody at the game that night and trying to put on a show for them. So I look forward to doing that again.”