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Patrick Kane opens up about his time with the London Knights ahead of his jersey retirement

Josh Vold   ·   16 janvier 2020
On Friday night, the London Knights will take on the Sudbury Wolves, but there will somebody special in the building. 9,000+ fans will gather at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont. to watch Patrick Kane have his No.88 Knights jersey retired. Kane will be joined by 30 of his closest friends and relatives.

Kane was selected 88th overall by the Knights in the 2004 OHL draft, he fell down a lot of spots because teams were scared that he would choose to go to the NCAA, a common move for American players at the time. After being drafted, Kane spent two seasons with the U-18 United States National Team Development Program which competed in the NAHL (North American Hockey League). It wasn't until his draft year when he decided that joining London would be his best route to the NHL.

Although Kane only played for the Knights for one season, it was definitely a memorable one. He went onto score 62 goals and added another 83 assists to finish the season with 145 points in 58 games. He won the OHL scoring title that year, finishing with 11 more points than John Tavares, who came second in scoring that season. Kane was named to the OHL All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team, and was selected as both OHL and CHL Rookie of the Year. He also led the Knights to the playoffs that season, but unfortunately they lost in the Western Conference Final to the Plymouth Walers.

In June of that year, Kane was selected first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks.

QUIZ ON TRADERUMOURS
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What famous rivers cross Iraq?
BLUE NILE AND WHITE NILE
DANUBE AND VOLGA
RHINE AND ROHR
TIGER AND EUPHRATES


Kane sat down with Ryan Pyette of The London Free Press to discuss his return to London and his reaction when he found out that he would be having his jersey retired.

Kane spoke to Knights GM Mark Hunter last season, but there was little mention of the 2006-07 season that established Kane as a true hockey superstar.

"The way the conversation was going, I thought he just wanted to catch up," said Kane. "We talked hockey for 15 minutes. I was getting ready to hang up the phone and that's when he said he had one more thing to tell and it was the main reason that he wanted to talk."

Mark, along with his brother Dale Hunter, who is head coach of the Knights, decided that Kane's 145-point season was enough to warrant the jersey retirement. Kane is the ninth player to have his number retired by the Knights.

"There are moments in my career where you get chills coming down your spine when you do something special or something happens," said the future Hockey Hall of Famer. "That was one of those moments... That phone call was pretty special. He just kind of brought it up casually at the end like it was nothing. I only played there one year, so I didn't know if I really expected anything like a jersey retirement or anything like that.

"I thought it was pretty cool."

The Knights' criteria for the decision are pretty simple. A player must make a major impact on the organization, then follow that up on the NHL stage.

Well, Kane certainly meets those requirements. I already discussed his impressive season in the OHL, which ranks as the 18th highest scoring OHL season ever, Kane was also huge for the organization for getting American-born players to come join the Knights. According to Pyette, nearly every American-born Knights player has cited Kane as a reason for their interest in London.

As for the second part of the criteria, the part about making an impact on the NHL stage? Well, as we all know, Kane has been a star since the moment he entered the league. In 951 career games, he has scored 380 goals and 998 points, has won the Stanley Cup three times, the Conn Smythe Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Hart Memorial Trophy, and the Calder Trophy. He also been selected to the NHL All-Star Game nine times, and has been named to the NHL First All-Star team on three separate occasions. He has two 100-point seasons under his belt already, and with 60 points through 48 games this season, it looks like he his well on his way to a third. There is absolutely no doubt that Kane has made an impact in the NHL.

Kane comes from Buffalo, which isn't a very far drive to London, so his family was able come to all of the games in London.

"My family came to all the games in London," Kane said. "My three younger sisters, they would be all jacked up whenever we scored our fifth goal to get the free Harvery's cheeseburger or whatever it was back then. It was only 2.5 hours from home and there were a few times they had to stay over (because of the snow). They still love coming to my games to this day.



Being only 5-foot-10, 177 lbs, Kane's size has always played a factor in his career. He was often overlooked due to his small frame. He attended the NHL draft without an agent because they had never shown much interest in him.

"When I came to London, I was ranked in the third round," he recalled. "There was no pressure on me, really. I had a pretty good start to the season and after World Juniors, there started to be a little more talk about me maybe going first overall. After that, it kind of really took off. The Knights were really good about it. They helped me with practicing interviews and how to get ready for the draft when you're talking to other teams."

"On the ice, that's where I was most comfortable. That was like my sanctuary. That's what I loved to do. We were winning and having fun. I know it was one year, but to me, it felt like two or three. It was such an eventful year. I wished I could have played more there and maybe even went there earlier."

Kane is one of just a handful of OHL players that has led the league in playoff scoring without reaching the final.

Kane loved being around the team's trainer Don Brankley, who tragically passed away on June 16th, 2017. He also grew pretty close with Chris Matonn, who was the team's equipment manager. Kane brought him as a guest to the NHL awards one year. Former assistant GM and current Blackhawks scout Jim McKellar is another person that Kane recalls fondly from his time in London.

"I'd go back in the room to where the skates were sharpened and hang out with those guys and they'd make me laugh so much," Kane said. "Sometimes, when you're a rookie, you don't get the best treatment like the veterans do, but Branks was awesome... and took great care of me. He was a great man and icon."

Dale Hunter, who is still head coach of London, recently coached Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship. His brother, Mark, was the GM of that Canadian team. Both were present for Kane's time in London.

"I've always respected the Hunters so much for what they did for me," he said. "It was a big decision to forgo college and I couldn't have envisioned becoming a hockey player at a better place than London. It's been fun to watch the team win Memorial Cups and OHL championships. Seeing Dale and Mark do well at the World Juniors was pretty exciting."

"I'm American. I'm never going to root for Canadians, but seeing Dale behind the bench, that's an OK reason in itself."

Kane has had an amazing career so far, and he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when it is all said and done, and he can thank the London Knights for getting the ball rolling.
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON
QUIZ ON TRADERUMOURS
image
What famous rivers cross Iraq?
BLUE NILE AND WHITE NILE
DANUBE AND VOLGA
RHINE AND ROHR
TIGER AND EUPHRATES
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON