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Blackhawks excited for Patrick Kane's return to Chicago: ‘I expect a hero's welcome'

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Chicago Blackhawks franchise icon Patrick Kane is slated to make his highly-anticipated return to the United Center on Sunday for the first time as a visitor when he and the Detroit Red Wings come to town.

It's expected to be a chaotic day, especially with Chris Chelios having his No. 7 retired by the Blackhawks before the game. 

"It's going to be awesome," Philipp Kurashev said. "That's one of the games I looked at when the year started is when is Kaner coming? I know it's going to be a great atmosphere and with it being Chelios night as well, it's going to be awesome. It's going to be weird for sure but it's going to be great."

"It'll be exciting," Alex Vlasic echoed. "We also have Cheli night, so it'll be quite the long event. I think everybody's excited to see Kaner back in the building. I'm sure the fans are as well. 

"I think it's going to be weird for everybody to see him in a Red Wings jersey and not a Blackhawks jersey. It's going to be strange to have him playing against the Hawks. It's just going to feel wrong. But it'll be fun.

"I was fortunate enough to play with him for a little bit, but guys like Bedsy, this is his first time on the ice with him so it'll be really good to see those two guys go at it and kind of the past of the franchise and the future of the franchise all in one. I'm looking forward to it and everybody in here is as well."

Said Tyler Johnson: "It's going to be pretty special. It's going to be a crazy night obviously with Cheli too. But Kaner probably means the most, if not one of the most to this franchise, so for him to return, I'm sure the fans are going to give him a pretty warm welcome and it's going to be pretty exciting. I know he's going to be buzzing around too."

Connor Bedard was smiling from ear to ear when he was recently asked about Kane and what Sunday could be like.

"I’m just pumped for the video tribute," Bedard said. "I think it’s going to be pretty nasty. He had some sick highlights here. I’ve watched every one of his mix tapes probably 100 times, with his stuff. I’m pumped for that. 

"For him, it’s going to be a pretty special night with Cheli getting the jersey, too. It’s going to be a cool night, for sure."

Bedard isn't the only one who's pumped for the video tribute.

"It's going to be insane," Jason Dickinson said. "I've got a feeling we're going to have to delay the game a little bit for it. He's going to have to do a couple laps around the rink maybe to get everybody. The ovation is going to be crazy. What he means to this city and hockey fanbase is immeasurable."

Said Vlasic: "I wonder how long we're going to clock in at there. It'll be emotional, for sure. I think I might shed a tear."

Said Kurashev: "Oh yeah, it's going to be unbelievable. Whenever he's going to get the video tribute, it's going to be awesome. We'll see how he reacts. It's for sure going to be emotional for the fans and for him, just for all the things he did here, it's incredible. It's going to be an amazing night."

Said a smiling Johnson: "It should be good. Hopefully I'm not on the other end at all. We'll see though."

Said Jaycob Megna, who grew up a Blackhawks fan: "It's going to be special. I'm sure for a lot of people it's hard to believe he's not still playing here and that he'd ever play anywhere else. I know as a kid I always assumed him and Toews would be here forever. But I think it'll be a really cool moment and hopefully the fans will be able to show him the appreciation that he deserves."

Jonathan Toews was given a proper sendoff because Blackhawks fans knew ahead of time that his final game last season would be the last of his career with the franchise. Kane never got that because of the trade to the New York Rangers.

Blackhawks fans have had to wait almost a full year to say thank you to No. 88, and they'll finally have their chance to do so on Sunday.

"He's one of the major reasons why there's three Cups here, right?" Johnson said. "I think when Tazer was kind of leaving at the end of the year, you saw what the fans were doing for him and how special that was. Kaner never quite got that because he got traded and never came back, so I expect it to be a little bit like that.

"Obviously we have a game to play and everything, but he means a lot to this organization. He did a lot here and in the city of Chicago and I know the fans love him."

Said Reese Johnson: "It's kind of a moment that the fans and they're probably in need of, you know? Seeing a player like Kaner move on from the organization is never easy, especially after the great moments he's had here. Unbelievable moments he created, so it's definitely going to be special. I'm looking forward to it."

Nick Foligno, who's been the Blackhawks' de-facto captain this season, has a small idea of what Kane's emotions might be like on Sunday. But given what Kane has accomplished for the franchise and city, Foligno anticipates a rousing ovation for one of the greatest players in Blackhawks history.

"I obviously have never played with him here but what he's meant to this city and this organization, I expect a hero's welcome in a lot of ways for what he's done for this organization," Foligno said. "I've got to think he's pretty excited. From everything I've heard and the stories from the guys, he's well-loved. It's going to be a really special day for him and his family especially and all the emotions. 

"I remember going back to Columbus myself after a long time and it's a pretty emotional day. You don't realize it until it comes and then you get there and it's almost like you're numb a little bit because everything seems so familiar but it's not. So yeah, I'm happy for him that he's going to get this kind of a welcome, especially on a special night like Cheli's retirement. 

"I think a lot of it will be about Cheli but I think there's going to be a great moment of time where it's going to be remembering Patrick Kane and what he's meant to this organization. Forever legend and Hall of Famer. I think they're all going to really be able to show their appreciation for what he's done for this organization."

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