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.

Blackhawks Camp Synopsis: Roster starting to take shape

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Camp Synopsis: Roster starting to take shape

One week down, roughly one week to go.

Some things have fallen into place during the Blackhawks’ first seven days of training camp but this week is when it really gets interesting. The roster will continue to take shape and the competition for the few vacancies will intensify. Here’s a look at what we’ve already seen in Week 1 and questions for Week 2.

Stock Rising

Jordan Oesterle. We could put a few of the young forwards here, but we’ve talked about them quite a bit and will continue to do so. So right now let’s look at Oesterle, who coach Joel Quenneville liked “a lot” in Thursday’s game against the Red Wings. A puck moving defenseman, Oesterle said he played on the right side with the Edmonton Oilers but could also play on the left. If Oesterle has another good week of camp, that and his versatility might get him a chance on a Blackhawks defense still looking for the right pieces.  

Stock Falling

Tomas Jurco. Please realize where we’re coming from with this assessment: where does he fit in this lineup? He didn’t get a lot of opportunities last season but when he did play there wasn’t anything that made him stand out. Stan Bowman likes him and much like with David Rundblad, the Blackhawks want to give the Jurco a chance to justify the draft pick they gave up for him (a third-round selection from the 2017 draft). Several young guys are pushing hard for roster spots. Can Jurco be an every-day player or do the Blackhawks have a decision to make in favor of some of those up-and-coming players? Just very interested to see how this turns out.

Biggest surprise

Nick Schmaltz’s second-line center opportunity. Maybe we should’ve been more open minded to this happening but considering how little that line changed last year you figured Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane would stay together even after the Artemi Panarin trade. But given the strides Schmaltz has made in his own game and the skating work he and Kane did together this offseason, Quenneville wants to see what Schmaltz can do in the middle. There’s always tinkering with this team; we really should have seen the possibility coming but we didn’t.

Some Remaining Questions

- If there’s one forward spot vacant out of training camp, which young player wins it? John Hayden. Here’s why: even if Alex DeBrincat doesn’t make this team out of camp, the Blackhawks’ top six is looking pretty good. Meanwhile the bottom six, especially that fourth line, has some holes. Getting a young player with some size, speed, skill and sandpaper that Quenneville likes and trusts (and he likes and trusts Hayden) would be a great addition to the bottom six.

- Will there be any surprises on defense? Maybe. Part of it depends on what the Blackhawks do about the Michal Rozsival situation. Rozsival didn’t pass his physical (upper body injury) and is not participating in camp. You hate to see someone go out like this, but it may be the end for the veteran. If so, the seventh defensive spot opens up and so do the Blackhawks options. After Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy you have Cody Franson (if the Blackhawks sign him), Oesterle and Jan Rutta who have made good preseason impacts. Michal Kempny’s in the mix, too. Gustav Forsling is on the bubble. He had a great camp last fall but didn’t improve off it; that has to change this season.

- Will the top line combination work? There’s no doubt the Blackhawks missed Brandon Saad. He may not have been facing the sturdiest Red Wings team on Thursday but Saad’s powerful game was nevertheless impressive and a reminder of how much the Blackhawks missed that element the last two seasons. But the Saad-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik combo hasn’t gotten a great look yet — Toews missed Thursday’s game due to illness. Saturday should be the first chance to see if these three can really click.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 6-1 win over Red Wings in preseason home opener

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 6-1 win over Red Wings in preseason home opener

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Thursday's preseason home opener:

1. DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Kane unit was electric.

Yeah, this line could work. We realize the Red Wings sent over many of their fringe players, but Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane are all on the same wavelength offensively and it was evident in their first preseason game together.

The trio combined for four points (one goal and three assists), and created several quality scoring chances at even strength throughout the game. Kane was Kane, Schmaltz was one of the best players on the ice and DeBrincat cashed in for his first career (preseason) goal in the NHL.

This is certainly something to keep an eye on as roster cuts get underway and final decisions on the Opening Day lineup approach. Will DeBrincat be a part of the big club? It was considered a long shot before training camp started, but it's hard to ignore the chemistry he's developing on that second line.

2. Brandon Saad picks up where he left off in Blackhawks uniform.

It's like he never left. In his first game back in a Chicago sweater, Saad netted a hat trick — albeit, it's preseason so it won't count in the books — and he could have had a fourth, and maybe even a fifth, if you want to look further into the chances he had. All three goals that he did score though he found himself parked in front of the net, which is a great sign for the Blackhawks because it's something they lacked last year.

"The puck seemed to be finding me," Saad said after the win. "Regardless of what kind of game it is, you want to get your confidence rolling. It’s good to be back out here. It's always nice to be wanted and welcomed, and these fans are the best fans in the league, so it’s good to be back."

Saad finished the game with a game-high eight shots on goal and a plus-3 rating, and he did it without Jonathan Toews, who did not play due to an illness.

3. Connor Murphy developing chemistry with Duncan Keith.

The Blackhawks' new top pairing featuring two-time Norris Trophy winner Keith and 24-year-old Murphy was solid in their first game together.

Murphy wasn't afraid to be aggressive and take chances by pinching in, joining the rush, and quarterbacking the power play with confidence. He also didn't make any glaring defensive mistakes, which is a plus in Quenneville's book.

"I thought everybody played well on our back end," Quenneville said. "Then we went down to five, I thought they looked very good."

(Luc Snuggerud suffered an upper-body injury in the second period, and did not return. Quenneville said they will know more about his status on Friday).

4. Jordan Oesterle catches Joel Quenneville's attention.

Of those six defensemen noted above, the one that really stood out to the Blackhawks coach was Oesterle. The 25-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract with Chicago over the offseason, and is fighting for a spot on the bottom pairing.

He made a strong early case by registering two assists and leading the team with three blocked shots in 21:49 of ice time, playing on both the power play and penalty kill units.

"I liked him. A lot," Quenneville said. "I liked his thought process, jumping up in the play, positionally very strong, quick and headsy. He did a really good job. He's got some flexibility and the ability to play both sides is a great asset to have."

5. What to make of abundance of penalties...

We mentioned the NHL's desire to crack down on slashing penalties and faceoff violations in our five takeaways after Tuesday's preseason opener, and it remained the same Thursday. There were another 13 penalties called, three of which were slashing, and handful of centers getting tossed from the dot.

So what should we make of it all?

Well, it's hard to imagine the amount of penalties will stay the same once the actual regular season starts. It seems like a tactic to lay down the hammer extra hard in an effort to get players to adapt to the new enforced rules as quickly as possible. It will be interesting to follow how things may change over the course of the season, with referees having the tendency to swallow their whistles as the important games roll around, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs.