Patrick Kane’s Return to Chicago Couldn’t Have Ended Any Better

The Hockey Writers

No one was quite sure what the vibes would be when Patrick Kane — who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win three Stanley Cup championships between 2010 and 2015 and scored over 1,200 points and finished second on the franchise’s all-time scoring list — returned to Chicago wearing a Detroit Red Wings uniform on Feb. 25.

Patrick Kane Detroit Red Wings
Patrick Kane scored the OT-winner in his first game back in Chicago as a member of the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 25, 2024. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

How would fans receive him? How would he react to their reaction? Would he be able to showcase the generational skill that took fans’ breaths away for 16 seasons?

Related: Blackhawks Big Night: Chelios’ Number Raised & Kane’s Return

Before we start to examine this, let’s get this out of the way: that ending was far more like a Disney movie than anything you or I could ever come up with. Scoring the overtime-winning goal against your former team? Having over 18,000 fans cheer for someone on the away team ending the game on a goal? Not even the state of Wisconsin couldn’t contain that much cheesiness.

And yet, for everyone in attendance and Kane himself, the moment couldn’t have been more perfect. Let’s take a look at the 2007 No. 1 overall pick’s return to Chicago and what, despite the loss, might have been one of the brighter moments of the Blackhawks’ 2023-24 regular season.

Kane Returns on Chris Chelios Jersey Retirement Night

Sports has a way of having plenty of coincidences, and we saw another one when Chris Chelios — one of the best U.S.-born player in hockey history — had his No. 7 jersey retired by the franchise the same day Kane made his return. Chelios spent nine seasons with the Blackhawks between 1990-91 and 1998-99, winning the Norris Trophy twice and making the NHL All-Star Game five times. Chelios has said before that Kane is one of his favorite players to watch in the league, and during his speech, he made sure not to leave No. 88 out.

“This guy will go down as the greatest American-born player,” Chelios said as the crowd responded with deafening applause. “Kaner, Patrick Kane, unbelievable.” More applause, each of the fans in attendance standing, with hockey royalty such as Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier in attendance, clapping in unison. “That jersey looks kinda funny on you Kaner, but it’ll grow on you. And don’t worry, it’ll work out in the end. You’ll be standing here the same as me.”

Related: Blackhawks Sending Lukas Reichel to the AHL Is the Right Move

“But just be careful, don’t go stealing my thunder today,” Chelios concluded.

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I hate to break it to the Hall of Fame defenseman, but Kane absolutely stole the thunder, lightning and all the damn thunder the Windy City had to offer.

Blackhawks Fans Show Love For Kane

Once the No. 7 banner was in the rafters and the players had their equipment on, the puck dropped and some form of normality returned to the rink. I mean, until the first TV timeout.

Professional athletes make a habit of trying to be stoic in these moments, not letting the situation overwhelm them. When you’ve played in front of millions of people over the years, it gets lost on you that how you make your living impacts so many lives. Nerves and loud cheers are as much apart of life as chain emails and the printer running out of ink are for you and I.

Related: Anthony Beauvillier Is Blackhawks’ Wild Card for Rest of Season

But after the video tribute ended and Kane acknowledged the crowd, the applause didn’t stop. It got louder, the high pitch of whistles and voice-cracking yelps growing, demanding a curtain call. So Kane skated out and raised his stick again, nodding, biting his bottom lip, and taking deep breaths. That’s enough, he must have thought. We have a game to play. But fans cheered and clapped even louder, echoing the noise generated through the three Stanley Cup championships that Kane and co. won for the Blackhawks, their first titles since 1961.

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He took one last lap, a third curtain call, and the United Center exploded. Other Red Wings were happy for their new teammate, and Blackhawk players were gracious in an opponent getting as loud a response as they’ve had all season. Once everyone caught their breath, it was back to hockey.

Blackhawk or Red Wings, it’s Always Showtime

Skip ahead to the third period with less than five minutes to go and the Blackhawks up 2-1, Kane fed Alex DeBrincat — another former Blackhawk — at the blue line who carried it in and took a shot that got blocked and ends up in the corner. DeBrincat then fired the loose puck from below the goal line at the net, and it somehow got behind netminder Petr Mrazek and into the net.

Just like that, the game was tied at two and off to overtime. It wouldn’t take long for Kane to remind the hockey world why they call him “Showtime.”

I mean, come on, right? Are you serious? Is this guy serious? Sometime you have to ask yourself if sports are predetermined like professional wrestling and the scriptwriters know that this ending is just too perfect. But instead of being fake, it’s just fate, and players like the 35-year-old Kane have that “it” factor, that ability to make something happen at the perfect time. Only those type of players can go into a rink wearing the road team’s sweater, score the game-winning goal in overtime and have fans giving them a standing ovation.

It won’t be long until Kane’s No. 88 joins Chelios’ No. 7 and Marian Hossa’s No. 81 up in the rafters, as will Jonathan Toews’ No. 19 and Duncan Keith’s No. 2. There aren’t many guarantees in life, but these are certain. What else is certain is that Kane, the greatest player in Blackhawks’ franchise history and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, know when to put on a show. That’s exactly what he did when he returned to Chicago.

Are you not entertained?

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