Chicago Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Kane brings Stanley Cup to Niagara Falls

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Hawk Talk: Kane brings Stanley Cup to Niagara Falls

Friday, Aug. 13, 2010

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

8:23 PM

BUFFALO, New York - Any anxiety Patrick Kane had from being stuck on a fire truck cherry-picker right in the middle of downtown Friday afternoon (that's how the firefighters thank him for sharing the Cup with them?!) was quickly worked off with a good ol' game of floor hockey.

The man who scored the goal who decided the Cup is apparently a regular at the indoor skating facility that's roller-rink on the weekends, floor hockey during the week. And boy, does "Spinners" have...uh...character.

Name me a diner you've seen before like the one that adjoins Spinners-where the sign outside promotes "BBQ & Custard." Inside? Almost 70's Flashback in the decor, the low ceilings, the dim lighting, and ventilation provided by huge, dust-caked fans. Maybe that's why its aroma was so unflattering as well.

But that gritty place in blue-collar, south Buffalo is where the NHL superstar who so often displays flash and dash on the ice gets the edge within that we don't often see.

There, in shorts and gym shoes, playing with and against his buddies (including neighborhood pal Tim Kennedy, who was just let go by the hometown Sabres), the competitive side of the kid is there for all to see, up close. Yeah, he was having fun. But in the first-to-five wins within a best-of-seven series, "88" put his game face on when his team trailed 3-0 in a potential Game 6 "clincher" for Cup bragging rights. He took the floor, scored once, set up a couple of others, as the black Blackhawks beat the red Blackhawks, 5-3. Another Cup celebration was on.

After going back home to shower and change, the night ended on a formal note. About 150 family members and friends gathered at a banquet facility. Kane entered with the Cup like a bride and groom after being introduced to cheers, then took the microphone to thank all who'd made the day possible. When he got to mom and dad, Donna and Pat, the magnitude of the day for the parents seemed to take a temporary emotional hold. Scotty Bowman was there, but preferred not to talk, saying it was Patrick's day and night. Ex-Sabre Brian Campbell was also scheduled to arrive and join in.

Kane then shared some final thoughts....that winning the Cup, and scoring the goal to win it, was finally starting to sink in. That he's already begun some off-season skating drills and has no doubt he'll be ready for training camp next month. That he'll welcome a greater leadership role to help guide the new, young Hawks in their attempt to fill the skates of his departed title 'mates.

He still doesn't know where his game-winning puck is. He's heard Jonathan Toews now has the heavyweight belt he won in the real Game 6 and thought he'd lost in the days of celebration that followed in Chicago. And finally, that he's scheduled to help out Jimmy Buffett at Toyota Park Saturday night with "Margaritaville." That'll come after some more stops here Saturday morning-at a cemetery, a rink, and a pizza joint before flying to back to Chicago.

I'll beat him there after a fun, unique, on-the-run 14-hour day chasing him around his hometown.

2:49 PM

BUFFALO, New York -- So upon arrival back at New Era from our previous entry, we encounter a traffic jam where a crowd is assembled around Kane atop a raised fire engine ladder with the Cup. Once we give up and get out of the taxi to walk the rest of the way, we learn ol' Ladder 2 was stuck in the "up" position a good 15-20 minutes, three stories up, and was finally being lowered as we approached. The kid and the Cup emerged no worse for the wear. He. Was smiling, the firemen weren't.

On another note, during that cab ride back, our driver volunteered that he knows the driver who "got into it" here nearly a year ago with Patrick and his cousin, and based on the driver's "rep" thinks Kane was set up that night, and he's felt like punching that guy, too.

And now - on the way to floor hockey - our caravan's made a sudden stop on Seneca Street for a momentary visit inside Hopper's Rush Inn. Kane says he'll be back at 10 tonight to those inside. Not sure if he meant the Cup, too.

2:07 PM

BUFFALO, New York -- As we feed in video from a local TV station that you'll see here on CSNChicago.com and on "SportsNite", an update from what's been a tightly-scheduled, whirlwind day with Patrick Kane and the Stanley Cup.

Upon departure from Niagara Falls, we stopped at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Just one camera was allowed into the rooms where the Blackhawks winger visited with young cancer patients, but when he emerged for a welcome and presentation in the hospital's lobby, it was evident he was moved and humbled by the challenges facing those he visited, and how fortunate those of us are who live life without thinking twice. I'm told it was an emotional experience for him and his family as they visited a handful of rooms, allowing patients and their families to experience the Cup, even joking they were more excited to see "it" than him.

Following a brief photo op at Kevin Guest House - an affordable home where parents and relatives of those patients are able to stay during their treatment, we moved down a couple of blocks where a new building's going up on Roswell's campus - a global vascular institute and research center. Kane took the Cup up six levels, where the ironworkers from Local 6 were probably just finishing up their lunch hour. The Cup was quite a dessert for the rowdy group, which was also joined by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. The workers held the Cup aloft, looking down on the hospital workers and curious passersby down below. They stood below a beam spray-painted 'PAT KANE WINS STANLEY CUP."

While we send video in and "88" signs some autographs and takes pictures at the New Era Store here with fans, policemen and firemen, we're getting set for some floor hockey back in the Orchard Park area, where the Cup will be on the line.

9:13 AM

We're heading back to downtown Buffalo on Patrick Kane's day with the Stanley Cup after an early start where the media covering his day gathered at his boyhood home, where his family still lives, and then took a small police-escorted caravan to the American side of Niagara Falls.

Upon exiting an elevator that descended 175 feet and opened at the tunnel leading to Cave of the Winds, we were greeted once into the open by a rainbow arching over the Falls beneath a clear sky. We couldn't linger at the site long, as Kane was hustled over with the Cup to the Hurricane Deck, renamed the Hurri-Kane Deck, which was situated between two rolling, thundering waterfalls. Once our photographer, Mike Cappozzo, carefully negotiated his way up the soaked wooden steps leading towards the deck, the force of the water provided an extra challenge to protecting the camera, much less the water spraying onto it.

Kane raised the Cup over his head in his red Hawks jersey, the water from the Falls behind him showering him, and then took turns with his dad Pat, mom Donna, his three sisters and other friends and relatives posing for photographers. He capped it off by then jumping into a small pond with his buddies before emerging for one final pose. Afterward, he said he'd only been to the Falls two or three times growing up, but the rush he got this time was indescribable.

Once back up to ground level, he and the Cup were part of a short presentation and welcome from the State Park and the mayor of Buffalo, with about 100 fans gathered around, including one family from Chicago, who missed the parade and hadn't come close to the Cup in Chicago. They just so happened to be vacationing in the area when they heard Kane was coming, and their timing worked out perfectly, staying a little longer this morning before hitting the road back home.

We'll continue checking in here on CSNChicago.com throughout this day in Kane's hometown with updates on its tour through Buffalo, plus we'll have all the glorious video on "SportsNite" at 6:30, 10:00 & midnight.

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

The calendar is quickly approaching August and a majority of the NHL's top free agents have already signed new deals or found new homes. But there's one marquee player who has suddenly shaken loose, and will surely draw heavy interest across the league.

That would be 22-year-old defenseman Will Butcher, who informed the Colorado Avalanche that he will hit the open market and become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

Butcher, a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, was named the recipient of the 2017 Hobey Baker Award, annually given to college hockey's top player, after scoring seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games during his senior campaign while helping Denver University capture its first national title since 2005. It's the second straight year NCAA's top player has elected not to sign with the club that drafted him, with Jimmy Vesey doing the same last year when he signed with the New York Rangers instead of the Nashville Predators.

So could Butcher be a real option for the Blackhawks? There's certainly a reason for both sides to be intrigued by a potential match. 

With Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya no longer in the picture, the Blackhawks could use a young, NHL-ready blue liner with top-four potential and Butcher provides just that.

He's a 5-foot-10, 186-pound puck-moving defenseman with high offensive upside but also plays a solid two-way game and is responsible in his own end. He carries a left-handed shot, quarterbacked Denver's No. 1 power play unit and possesses strong leadership skills after serving as the team's captain for two years.

While he is certainly no sure thing, Butcher would be as close to pro ready as any prospect in Chicago's system and could factor into the cards as soon as this season. It also doesn't hurt that he shared the same blue line at Denver as Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman, who drew great reviews from Joel Quenneville at prospect camp.

The good news for the cap-crunched Blackhawks is that the maximum allowable salary for an entry-level contract is $925,000, so that eliminates the possibility of getting into a bidding war with other teams. Signing and performance bonuses can still be included, but that's the least of their worries if they can land a player of Butcher's caliber.

His decision will really come down to best fit and opportunity to play and win, and the Blackhawks can offer all of the above.

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson has called Chicago home ever since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005. But now it's time for a new chapter.

After being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June, the former Blackhawks defenseman officially said goodbye to the city he spent a decade in and helped bring three Stanley Cups to with an emotional Instagram post that perfectly sums up his time here:

One marriage. Two kids. Three rings. 

Hjalmarsson will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Blackhawks fans.