A day spent with the Stanley Cup is supposed to be filled with fun times, and Patrick Kane certainly accomplished that Friday. The NHL champion and South Buffalo native welcomed hockey's gleaming trophy to town with a dip in Niagara Falls, a shoulder-tapping visit with ironworkers, a festive private party and a towering ride in a fire truck (although that lasted longer than intended).
Yet despite all the hoots, hollers and high-fives, it was clear Kane's lasting memory will be a heart-tugging visit to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
The 21-year-old forward for the Chicago Blackhawks, who's had a few adolescent moments through the years, seemed to mature in an instant after walking the halls of Roswell Park. It's as if he realized scoring the Cup-winning goal in overtime may be life changing, but bringing a smile to the face of a sick child or an adult on his deathbed can create even more emotions.
"It's crazy, man," Kane said in the Roswell Park lobby. "Sometimes you go through tough days in life and you think the world is falling down on your shoulders, then you come here and it just makes it unbelievable. It's really hard not to get emotional.
"I thought it was really tough, especially kids walking around with their heads on their shoulders -- then they smile from ear to ear [when they see the Cup]. It's really crazy to see, but I'm really happy I came here."
Those closest to Kane -- he was surrounded by family and a dozen friends during all his stops -- noticed the impact Roswell Park had on him as he made private visits to the pediatric ward and terminal patients.
"The patients were so appreciative of him being there," his mother, Donna, said, "and for them to say, 'What a great day, finally a fun day, finally a good day,' you look at yourself and say, 'Boy, if you have [a] bad day, you know where to go.'
"To see what that simple gesture meant to them, it was a very humbling and emotional experience. He wasn't leaving there until he made sure that the person who wanted to see him there saw him."
No member of Kane's family is more closely linked to the hockey star than his father, Patrick Sr., who spends much of the year with his son in Chicago. The two often go to gatherings together, and the elder Kane said one thing was noticeably absent Friday.
"There's a lot of functions that we'll go to, and I'll get The Look," Kane Sr. said. "The Look that, 'Come on, let's move on to the next thing.' I didn't get that look at all today. He wanted to be at these places. He took his time with every person, and I could see the maturity growing right there that this is a special day."
It started early. Kane and his entourage kicked off the festivities in the morning at the Cave of the Winds in Niagara Falls. The erstwhile "Hurricane Deck" between the American and Bridal Veil falls became the "HurriKane Deck" after a new wooden sign was created by parks department workers Tom Proctor and Joe Monaco.
Kane felt right at home on his new deck. Clad in a red Blackhawks jersey, shorts and sandals while surrounded by folks in yellow ponchos, Kane hoisted the Cup as more than 30 fans cheered from the top of the Falls. After posing for pictures with family, friends and parks workers, Kane and his buddies ran toward the Bridal Veil Falls and let the water cascade over them.
The Cup glistened with beads from the mist as Kane stood nearby dripping wet.
"Just getting drenched up there really gives you a total rush, and it was really a great moment to hold the Cup over my head in front of one of the biggest wonders of the world," Kane said. "The biggest thing you do with the Cup is make sure you take a good picture with it. We were thinking about what would be the best picture in Buffalo, and obviously it was a very easy decision to come to Niagara Falls. I think it worked out great."
As Kane walked along a path at the Falls to receive the key to the city from Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster, startled folks in line for the Cave of the Winds quickly grabbed their cameras for a picture of the player and his Cup.
The eye-opening experience at Roswell Park followed, with a visit behind Buffalo General Hospital soon after. Kane, wearing a hard hat, met with members of Ironworkers Local 6 on the fifth level of a building being constructed for Kaleida Health. The union members celebrated Kane's Cup triumph in June by painting his name and feat on a sixth floor beam.
Kane's final public visit of the day was at New Era Cap Co. on Delaware Avenue, where he met with members of the Buffalo Police and Fire departments. Police stopped traffic as Kane raised the Cup above his head in the middle of Delaware, with halted drivers sticking their camera phones out their windows to get a shot.
Kane then took a ride up the basket and ladder of a fire truck, and he waved with the Cup from several stories in the air. He wound up skyward for more than 20 minutes as the ladder malfunctioned and the firemen couldn't get Kane down.
"It was scary, especially when my dad called me and said I had to walk down. It was so steep," said Kane, who got an easy ride to earth when the ladder began working again.
Kane will host the Cup for part of today before it takes a flight to Chicago. He plans to visit the cemetery to honor departed relatives, a local hockey rink and his favorite South Buffalo pizzeria. None of the stops, though, will compare to the lessons learned at Roswell.
"This year's going to be tough to top," Kane said. "I got to play in the Olympics, I got to play in the Stanley Cup final, and then obviously winning the Stanley Cup and scoring the goal to win it, I don't know if it gets much better."But there's always other things you can accomplish, and I think one of the biggest things, even coming here today, you want to make yourself a better person. Especially after coming to a place like Roswell, you feel how lucky you are and how much you can give back to society and the community just by being a role model."