It’s been 102 days, five hours and 11 minutes since Patrick Kane sat helplessly on the Team USA bench and watched Sidney Crosby slip a short-side shot past Ryan Miller in overtime to win the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Fast forward to Wednesday night and here was Kane, another of the rising stars who have brought a new luster to the NHL, enjoying his own overtime heroics after beating Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton with a similar shot to give the Chicago Blackhawks its first Stanley Cup title in 49 years.
It’s been quite a year for the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, starting off on a sour note with an assault charge against a cab driver on Aug. 9 and ending 10 months later with him hoisting the Cup around the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Along the way, Kane participated in the U.S. Olympic Orientation Camp, the Blackhawks training camp, opened the regular season in Helsinki, Finland, played in all 82 games along the way, including 22 playoff games, including six hard-fought games in the Finals.
“It didn’t start off very good back in August. But I think sometimes you know you go through those kinds of things as a young kid. You can really learn from them and try to better yourself as a person and as an athlete too. Yeah, there were ups and downs,” said the 21-year-old Buffalo native.
“As far as hockey-wise, I can be pretty satisfied. I thought I had a really good year as far as, you know, Olympics, obviously, you win the Stanley Cup, it’s pretty special too. Just really unbelievable to see how things can go from so bad to so good.”
So good is just one of the many adjectives that can be used to describe the National Team Development Program alumni.
In his only his third full season in the NHL, Kane already has amassed 76 goals and 154 assists while playing in all but two regular season games. In only his second postseason, Kane seemed to find another gear to his game, notching 28 points, one fewer than teammate Jonathan Toews, who captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
After the Flyers sent Game 6 into overtime, Kane managed to steal the show, picking up a pass along the boards, deking around Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and slipping a shot past Leighton.
As Kane cruised around the net, he sent equipment flying in the air as a stunned Flyers team and their fans couldn’t believe their historic march to the Cup had ended so suddenly.
“I didn’t see the goal,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “Things happened quick. I saw one of their players skate across the ice like he had won something. I got a little pit in my stomach.”
After being shut down in the first two games of the series, Kane emerged when it mattered most, notching eight points, including the Cup winner as part of a three-point outing in Game 6.
“I can’t believe this just happened,” Kane said. “It's something you dream of as a kid. To score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was just -- it was unbelievable.”
After a long season, Kane is looking forward to taking some time off and relaxing at home with friends and family. That will surely include bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo to share it with those who have supported him through good times and bad.
“I think it’s something you probably think about a little more and try to have a great day with it," Kane said. "I'm sure it will be unbelievable having that thing for a full day.”