Patrick Kane Reaches 400: The Greatest American to Ever Hit the Ice

On Sunday night, a hockey game was played between the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings and the decent but by no means elite Chicago Blackhawks. It was a forgettable game that saw an unforgettable moment for a player we will always remember. In signature fashion, Patrick Kane flew down the wing on a two-on-one, pumped the brakes, curled and dragged and snapped one home for his 400th goal of an almost untouchable career that is still ongoing. The milestone is a stark reminder of how lucky the hockey world has been all these years to witness the greatest American to ever play.

I know. Mike Modano holds all the records in the offensive categories from his unbelievable career. Chris Chelios won three cups and three Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman and is seventh all-time in games played. Heck, if Auston Matthews keeps finding the twine at his current rate, he may end up at the top of this list one day.

There are several players who have donned the stars and stripes that rightfully deserve to be in the conversation. But I’m not here to talk about Patrick Kane’s career numbers and accolades, as dazzling as they are (three cups, Conn Smythe, Art Ross, Calder and Hart). I’m here to talk about how he changed the game like very few have before him; how Kane could easily go down as one of the five most skilled players in the history of the hockey.

I’m here to talk about the look — the golden lettuce out of the back of his helmet, the iconic 88 stitched on the back of his original six sweater. The mesmerizing puck-handling, silky smooth and quick as lightning. The forehand-backhand-forehand-backhand-forehand-backhand (etc.) that would always end up with the puck in the net, leaving goalies embarrassed as they watched themselves the next day on YouTube. I’m talking about the spin-o-ramas, the no-look feeds, the toe-drags and the nasty celebrations. I’m talking about every single American kid playing hockey in their driveway, imagining they were Patrick Kane.

I’m also talking about winning. The clutch gene. One year during a Blackhawks playoff run, they put a Hawks jersey on the Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center. When they erect Kane’s statue, they might as well put an M.J. jersey on his statue. The first time Patty truly stole the show was on a night in 2010 in Philadelphia. Overtime. Game six. Stanley Cup Finals. The head fake gave 88 all the space and time he needed to find the seam and fire a bad-angle wrister. Nobody knew what had happened.  Except for one hero, galloping down the ice with his arms flailing above him, knowing he had delivered Chicago their first cup in half a century.  That would be the first of three. He’d go on to be the most valuable player in the playoffs for cup number two and score the series clincher to deliver cup number three. He put the nasty in dynasty.

Patrick Kane is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s second in the league in points on a team in a state of transition. The days of Chicago’s dominance are gone but Kane is still producing at an elite level as the veteran among youngsters. A few years ago, Kane played on a line with a rookie at the time by the name of Artemi Panarin. Nobody had heard of him and then Kane helped elevate the Russian rookie to a household name. Now, Kane doesn’t have the luxury of playing alongside another star like so many superstars in the NHL do, but it doesn’t matter. He’s taking the likes of Pius Suter and Alex Debrincat and making them look like productive vets as he continues to dangle, snipe and celly.

On numbers alone, maybe Patrick Kane isn’t the greatest American ever. But to truly capture his impact, we need to use a better word than greatest. Most electrifying? Most dazzling? Impossible not to watch? Great American-born players have found themselves under the spotlight over the years, winning cups and leading their teams. Patrick Kane is his own spotlight, one that keeps on shining. And he’s not done yet.