At the 2007 NHL Draft in Columbus, the Chicago Blackhawks had the first overall pick for the first time in NHL history. They selected Patrick Kane, a five-foot-ten 18-year-old high school senior who made a name for himself in junior league with the London Knights, as well as in the 2007 World Juniors for Team USA. As he ascended the steps to the stage to accept his new jersey, nobody could have possibly guessed what would happen next. Kane started playing for the Blackhawks that fall and won the Calder Trophy that June. Along with Jonathan Toews, Kane is credited for helping the Blackhawks regain popularity in the 2007-2008 season, and it has only gone uphill from there.
Kane has also won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, a Conn Smythe trophy, silver medal for Team USA in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and has most recently became the first American born player to receive the Art Ross Trophy.
His 2015-2016 season was nothing short of historic with his Art Ross Trophy win as well as 26 game point streak, the longest among any American born player (previously held by Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk), Blackhawk (previously held by Bobby Hull), and current NHL player (previously held by Sidney Crosby).
Patrick Kane won the Hart Trophy this past season. The last time a Blackhawk won the Hart Trophy was Stan Mikita in 1968. The last American-born player to win the Hart Trophy was in 1925 when Billy Burch of the Hamilton Tigers (Brett Hull does not count since he was born in Canada). Burch received the Hart the second year the trophy was awarded. There are no other American-born Hart Trophy winners of the modern NHL era.
Although Kane has undeniably changed the face of US Hockey, he will cemented his status as an American hockey legend by winning the Hart Trophy. Hockey has always been Canada’s sport, out of the 55 Hart Trophy winners, 46 have been Canadian. With Canadian players being the majority in the NHL as well as some of the most successful, it has led to Team Canada dominating international competitions such as the Olympics and World Championships. Canada has snagged gold at the last two Olympics, as the US received a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics and placed fourth in the 2014 Olympics.
Although, Americans are the second most common nationality in the NHL at 22.4% of players (Canada leads at 51.7), it was nearly impossible for one to name a highly successful American NHL player before Patrick Kane came into the league in 2007. Before Kane joined, American hockey players did not have someone from their country to look up to, possibly contributing to the belief that Americans can’t make it in the NHL. With the spotlight constantly shining on Kane’s success, he is now impossible to ignore, and is admired by many young hockey players, especially Americans.
When one thinks of iconic NHL players, they think of legends such as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. They also think of current stars like Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. All four are Canadian. For the first time in NHL history, there is a high probability that an American-born player can become a legend. Patrick Kane has already changed the face of US hockey through his outstanding career, and will achieve much more due to his young age. Patrick Kane receiving the Hart Trophy this year cemented his status as an American hockey legend. When Chicago had the first overall draft pick in 2007, they certainly did not take the opportunity for granted and signed a potential future Hall of Fame player.
This, of course not saying that there have not been any good American hockey players, there have been many. Such as; Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk. There have been many great, hall-of-fame calibre American hockey players. Patrick Kane is a new era of USA hockey, one that is fun to watch, and is full of talent.
Kane is one of the most talented players in the NHL. He’s exciting to watch. Each and every night he brings that ‘flare’ and tenacity to the game. Hockey has constantly been growing in the USA, and you see that in the box scores too. Especially when they’re beating Canada in the World Juniors. More and more young and coming players are coming from the US. A good example, this past year’s NHL Draft saw Auston Matthews drafted 1st overall. Matthews is from Arizona.
USA Hockey is growing and we can only hope it continues to grow, so that the Canada vs. USA rivalry never dies.