Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
DETROIT — When Patrick Kane stepped off the ice after his hour-long skating session in Detroit on Thursday morning, a young Chicago Blackhawks fan wearing a Connor Bedard jersey was one of many kids waiting for him to finish and ask for a photo.
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When he saw the jersey, a smiling Kane joked to the fan: "We've got to change the 9's to 8's."
Just like it's weird to see No. 88 in a Red Wings jersey, Kane is still getting used to seeing No. 98 Bedard jerseys in Blackhawks red.
"Yeah, I mean, you know what, it's great for Chicago, it's great for the league to have a player of his caliber in that market," Kane said of the Blackhawks winning the 2023 NHL Draft lottery and landing Bedard. "Obviously happy for the organization and for Connor, too, to go to a city like that. It's a great place to play. He's already doing well, I'm sure he'll be even better as time goes on, so hopefully they can build something up there."
Kane said he talked to Bedard a few times, both leading up to the draft and after he was officially selected with the No. 1 overall pick by Chicago. They are the only two players in franchise history to be taken first overall.
"He's very respectful, you could tell he was raised the right way," Kane said. "He's still very young too, right? He's a young 18-year-old, so I'm sure he'll figure out ways to be better and better on the ice. It seems like he's already got a good head on his shoulders.
"From afar, it seems like he's already a pro, right? Whether it's, you see him staying on the ice after practice, the way he takes care of himself, things like that. It'll all go well with him."
After the Blackhawks won the lottery, Kane thought there might be any outside chance his former team circles back. But the Blackhawks have respectfully turned the page to a new era.
"Yeah, I mean, I never really knew, right?" Kane said. "Especially after that first pick, I was like: 'OK, maybe they'll try to bring, even like Tazer or myself back.' But it seems like they're kind of headed in a different direction now, so yeah didn't hear from them but I'm thinking they're trying to kind of rebuild and get their young players in there and give them a chance. It is what it is."
When asked whether he took that a little personally, Kane took the high road.
"No, I don't think so," Kane said. "I was there for a long time. I was there for 16 years or so. We had a good run when I was there. I think there's always a piece in the back of your mind that maybe it could potentially happen or even down the line or in the future, you never know, but yeah, I love the city, loved my time there with the organization. Obviously we had a lot of success, so if it's time to move on, then it is what it is."
Kane made the decision to have hip resurfacing surgery on June 1. He felt it was time, after trying everything possible with the Blackhawks to get it right. It originally started to bother him during the COVID-19 bubble in 2020.
"The next year I played with it, I think I had like a really good start to the season," Kane said. "I think I had 66 points in 56 games. I’m like, good, I think I can run it back and not just get the surgery. And I had a good year the next year too and had 92 points in 78 games. I’m just thinking, I can play with this, this is just the way it is. I’m not going to be at the level I was before, but I can still be an effective player.
"Obviously there was a lot of moves with the roster and everything. And some of the players I really had chemistry with, made the game easy on me, like [Alex] DeBrincat, [Dylan] Strome, weren’t there anymore, so a little bit of building up."
As he looks to the write the next chapter of his career, Kane signed a one-year deal with Detroit. He believes he can get close to the level he was at before the injury.
"Very confident," Kane said. "The season ended right around May 1 and it took us a good month to figure out what to do. We wanted make sure we were confident in the decision we were going to go. Decided to go through with the surgery on June 1. It was pretty much the best option for me.
"I could've maybe done a labrum repair and a scope, but with the wear and tear in the hip, it would've maybe given me a year or a year and a half, and I could've potentially even had more pain. It was the right move to do the resurfacing. ... Excited, confident, very optimistic where I'm at and where I can go from here and just about my play in general."
Kane signing with the Red Wings clearly wasn't to spite Chicago. The Red Wings simply checked a lot of boxes for him.
Detroit is an up-and-coming team with a young nucleus, he reunites with his close friend and linemate Alex DeBrincat, and geographically, it's a middle point for him between Chicago, where he has a home, and Buffalo, where his family lives. It seemed like a no-brainer for Kane.
"I think the rivalry has kinda died out a little bit, right?" Kane said. "I never thought of anything like that. Just more of the fit for me. I obviously respect the organization in Chicago completely and would never want to do anything to piss any of the fans off, or the organization. But I don't think that's the case in this situation."
Because he's on a one-year deal, Kane's future in Detroit beyond this season isn't guaranteed. But he wants to do everything he can to show that he can be a piece for the Red Wings beyond just this season and avoid becoming some sort of NHL journeyman.
"I hope it’s not like six, seven teams, to be honest with you," Kane said. "I’d rather keep it as low as possible. You have a three-year-old son, it’s tough to move around all the time. I think the situation here what they’re building, kind of where I fit into the team made a lot of sense for me."
The Blackhawks play the Red Wings in Detroit on Thursday, but Kane won't make his return against his former team just yet. He's cleared to play, but the Red Wings want to ease him in and let him get a few practices under his belt with his new teammates as he adjust to a new system and environment.
Circle the calendar for Sunday, Feb. 25, where Kane is scheduled to make his United Center return for the first time as an opponent. It will also be Chris Chelios' number retirement night.
Even Kane's not sure what his emotions will be that day.
"I have no idea," Kane said. "I've always played with a little bit of a chip on the shoulder, so hopefully I have a little bit that night and can play a good game and help the Wings win. It would be fun to score a goal or have a couple points, whatever it is. Just to play well against them."