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John Niyo: Patrick Kane's arrival hopes to help Wings turn back the clock

John Niyo, The Detroit News on

Published in Hockey

Patrick Kane knows the way things used to be around here.

And now that he has signed up to be a part of it himself, Kane, whose free-agent signing with the Red Wings on Tuesday sent a jolt through the NHL, sounds eager to turn back the clock.

“I mean, they call it Hockeytown for a reason, right?” he said.

Well, they used to, at least. And they certainly did the first time Kane came to Detroit to play hockey two decades ago.

Back then, the Red Wings were only a year removed from winning the Stanley Cup in 2002, with a roster littered with Hall of Fame players. The team was still a Presidents' Trophy winner during the 2003-04 season, too, when Kane, a 14-year-old hockey savant from Buffalo, moved to the Detroit area to play for the Honeybaked 16U AAA club. He was living at the home of Pat Verbeek, then a Red Wings TV analyst, and routinely attended games at Joe Louis Arena, where he “just thought it was an unbelievable atmosphere.”

He'd go on to spend a few more years playing for the USA Hockey program in Ann Arbor. And even as the future Hall of Famer moved on to Chicago, where the nine-time All-Star forward won three Stanley Cups, a Hart Trophy and racked up more than 1,200 points over 16 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, Kane loved to play hockey at Joe Louis Arena.

 

“It was always my favorite road rink to play at,” he said.

But now he’ll call Little Caesars Arena home ice, and shortly after he skated with his new teammates for the first time Wednesday morning at Madison Square Garden, even Kane had to laugh listening to himself talk about wearing the winged wheel.

“I think the jersey is beautiful, too,” he said. “Even though you're playing against ‘em and you hate ‘em there for a while, it's such a beautiful jersey.”

And as he tries it on for size, there’s a symbolism there that goes beyond old rivalries or new fashion trends. Kane’s signing this week sends a message about where Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman thinks his roster stands at the moment, but also where this team could be headed.

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