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A kid, a star, a heartfelt hockey bond

Dave Cannon wants to make this clear: He and his son, Matt, have been and always will be Buffalo Sabres fans.

But after hearing their story, you could forgive them if they started cheering for the Chicago Blackhawks.

After reading this, you might feel the same way.

The first thing you need to know about 11-year-old Matt is that he's a hockey player from the Town of Tonawanda and plays for the Tonawanda Lightning.

The second thing you need to know is that his birthday party every year is often a hockeycentric event. One year, it was the Summer Classic, where invitees wore Pittsburgh or Buffalo jerseys in the mold of the 2008 Winter Classic. Another year, he invited Daniel Briere (who didn't make it).

So no one was too surprised when Matt announced that he was inviting NHL star Patrick Kane to his birthday party last June at the Milsher indoor floor hockey rink in the Town of Tonawanda.

Matt has been following South Buffalo native Kane since his days with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, and continued to watch his career when he made it to the Blackhawks in 2007. When he asked his dad to invite No. 88, Dave Cannon responded: "OK. How are we going to do that?"

Dave Cannon found out where Kane's mom and dad live and sent the invitation there, not expecting much. Matt then proceeded to tell all his friends: "If Patrick comes, he's on my line."

Here's the thing: While party plans for Matt were ongoing in Tonawanda, the Blackhawks were on a magical run through the Stanley Cup playoffs, culminating with a Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers -- and that Briere guy -- thanks to an overtime goal by Patrick Kane.

Kane was the toast of Chicago and the NHL. The Cannons watched him on TV the night of the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 23, two days before Matt's big event.

"I said, 'I guess he's not going to make it to your party,' " Dave Cannon said.

The party got under way at 6 p.m., and a herd of 10-year-old boys began playing hockey. Out of the corner of his eye, Dave noticed a man walk onto the floor. Rich Glica, who coaches Matt's team, recognized him as Patrick Kane's father. Mr. Kane informed the men that Patrick was on his way in.

"I was dumbfounded," Dave said.

And when Matt saw No. 88 himself walk in, he said: "You gotta be kidding me."

The Cannons have the pictures and the video to prove that an NHL star who scored one of the biggest goals in hockey history took the time to make a little boy's birthday the most memorable day of his life.

But the best part about this story is that you didn't hear about it when it happened, but a year later, and not because the Cannons wanted the attention.

The puck Kane put into the net to beat the Flyers has disappeared. No one knows what happened to it. This year, when Matt started wearing No. 88 on his jersey in honor of his hockey idol/linemate, he scored the winning goal in his championship game. Any other kid would have put that puck in a case as a reminder of a great achievement.

Matt had another idea: He wanted Kane to have it because he didn't get to keep his Stanley Cup winner. So he sent it to him, care of his parents. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune got wind of it. Kane told the reporter how touched he was. He said he had sent the puck back to Matt, after autographing it, and telling Matt he should be proud.

He's not the only one. The parents of a pair of young hockey players from Western New York should also feel pretty good about this story.

e-mail: bandriatch@buffnews.com

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