Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — There’s a soft spot in Patrick Kane’s heart for the United States armed forces.
Just days after winning hockey’s greatest prize, the Stanley Cup, with the Chicago Blackhawks, and being named the most valuable player in this year’s playoffs, Kane was sitting at home watching ESPN. It was July 4 and the station was showing reunions between members of the military and their families.
The experience brought tears to his eyes, even after rewinding four or five times and watching it on repeat. Through the emotions, though, there was a moment of clarity for Buffalo’s current hometown superstar. He knew exactly how he’d kick off his one day with the cup once it rolled around.
“I saw the (show) on ESPN (July 4) with the military families,” he said. “It just hit home with me pretty hard, and my family, too. I knew at that moment I wanted to bring the cup to the military anywhere and we’re lucky enough to have one here in Buffalo.”
So with the help of members of the 914th Airlift Wing, the 107th Airlift Wing and friends and families of military members across Western New York, Kane rolled onto the tarmac at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Saturday and once again hoisted the famous trophy overhead.
Kane’s serious about his commitment to the armed forces. There are several hockey teams in the NHL who work with the military as a way of giving back. Some, like the Sabres, offer tickets to troops and honor them with a special announcement during the games.
But in Chicago, it’s a little different. They honor two military members in special ceremonies each game. It’s a part of his Blackhawks experience he enjoys.
“Being an American kid, I’ve been pretty up-to-date with the military and what’s been going on,” he said. “But I think they do so much for us, anything I can do to give back to ... the military. In Chicago, we honor a military veteran before the game and another one halfway through the third period, so things like that go a long way.”
Some might say Kane’s military feelings are only on the surface, that he doesn’t really care. But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo and Niagara Falls, who grew up in the same South Buffalo neighborhood as Kane and played hockey with his father when they were young, said Kane’s genuinely interested.
Introducing the hockey superstar at the event in Niagara Falls, Higgins told a story of Kane and a recent charity event at Wrigley Field in Chicago for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps injured veterans in a crisis. He said the players were making the charity rounds and the time eventually came for them to leave.
Kane didn’t listen.
“They told Patrick he had to go,” Higgins said. “But he didn’t go. He stayed and listened to each of their stories. That’s the type of person Patrick Kane is.”
Saturday wasn’t Kane’s first rodeo with the cup. He and the Blackhawks previously won in 2010, and No. 88, his jersey number, took the cup on a wet trek through the Cave of the Winds at the Falls.
He said the first time was nice for pictures, but his time with the military, including receiving a “Coin of Excellence” from Col. John Higgins, commander of the 107th Airlift Wing and Congressman Higgins’ cousin, will go down as a different type of memory.
It served to kick off Kane’s other trips with the cup – with stops at a South Buffalo pizzeria and the West Seneca Town Rink after completing the airbase event – in a positive way, he said.
“(The Cave of the Winds) was definitely some cool photo ops,” Kane said. “But to give back any way you can, especially to the military, and receiving (the coin) is pretty amazing. It kinda hits home hard. I’m happy with the way the day’s turned out so far.”Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.