There’s a lot to like about Chicago’s Patrick Kane. But, like any professional athlete these days, there’s also a lot to dislike about the 22-year-old.
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The American forward has made a name for himself on and off the ice through goals, assists, mischief and partying — four reasons why the hardcore American hockey fan should embrace this Buffalo, N.Y., native and budding Blackhawks star.
If not for these reasons, then how about this one: Who else, besides Kane, can take over for Mike Modano as America’s answer to Canada’s Sidney Crosby, Russia’s Alex Ovechkin, Sweden’s Nicklas Lidstrom or Finland’s Teemu Selanne?
Back in the day, an American hockey star was almost an oxymoron. The league still runs thin in Uncle Sam’s reps in today’s game, but the leaps and bounds American hockey has taken in the last three decades — both in the NHL and on the global stage — has left a serious statement on the hockey world. As Modano’s career winds down in Detroit and with recent Yanks like Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick on the other side of the glass, American puck fans are looking for the next countryman to take the reigns from Modano.
One intriguing answer is Kane, the first overall pick from the 2007 NHL draft with a bad-boy side, blond hair, blues eyes and a knack for lighting the lamp. He hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup last year and was an overtime goal away from an Olympics gold medal.
There are dozens of current American skaters who are tearing up the ice these days, and with all due respect to George Parros’ fists and mustache, Kane may have the edge. He may very well be the future face of American hockey. And that’s a good thing.
Playing in Chicago, in front of an Original Six fan base, certainly helps that cause. New Jersey’s Zach Parise is one of the league’s best, but he’s playing in America’s armpit, in the shadows of the Big Apple and the sports drama that trickles out of it and smothers everything in the Tri-State area. Ryan Kessler, currently leading Americans this season with 68 points (one point ahead of Kane), is stuck in Vancouver, where the Canucks struggle to gain too much attention from much of the U.S. Bobby Ryan (Anaheim), Joe Pavelski (San Jose) and Keith Yandle (Phoenix) are also among the top 10 in points, but are those cities hockey hotbeds? Don’t even ask about Phil Kessel.
Although he’s roughly 20 points shy of tying his career-high single-season points total (88, accomplished last season), Kane is well on his way to putting up ridiculous career numbers. By comparison, he’s dangerously on pace with Modano, whose 1,373 points lead all American-born players. In Modano’s first four seasons (317 games), he posted 309 points. In just 310 career regular-season games so far, Kane has tallied 297 points in what many may argue is a much more difficult era to score in than when Modano was lighting the lamp for the North Stars and start-up Dallas Stars back on the late-1980s and early-90s.
In his rookie year, Kane the teenager put up 21 goals and 51 assists for 72 points in 82 contests. He followed that year up with 25 goals in his sophomore season before exploding for career highs in goals (30) and assists (58) in 82 games last season.
On Tuesday night, Kane will head to the TD Garden to take on the Bruins in an Original Six clash for the sixth time in his career. Having notched five points in his first five career games against the Black and Gold, B’s fans could be in for an unfortunately gracious treat.