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Patrick Kane heard his name announced in Nationwide Arena and paused for an extra moment. He fought off the urge to leap from his seat, not wanting to seem too excited.

Kane kept his emotions in check. For about three seconds.

The Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night picked the South Buffalo native with the first overall selection in the National Hockey League draft.

When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman ended the drama by revealing Chicago's choice, Kane waited an extra beat and stood upright. He turned to his left and hugged his father.

"He said 'Dad, we did it,' " Patrick "Tiki" Kane said, his voice cracking.

The 18-year-old, who used to play in a Cazenovia Park house league, turned to his mother and embraced her.

"He said 'I love you, Mom. Thanks for everything you've done,' " Donna Kane sobbed.

Their son then went down the row to his grandfather. Donald Kane underwent major heart surgery a few months ago and hernia surgery last month.

"With everything he's been through, for him to be here for me was unbelievable," Patrick Kane said. "When I was giving him a hug he said, 'Keep moving on,' but I didn't want to move on. He's a great guy."

Tiki Kane's pride was evident as his boy strode to the stage, met the Blackhawks front office and pulled that hallowed sweater over his head for the first time. Tiki Kane's glassy eyes never left his son for an instant. Patrick's younger sisters, Erica, Jessica and Jacqueline, were crying.

"Twelve years of watching him grow up and get better and better every year, and a day like this comes . . . Today is the happiest day of my life," Tiki Kane said. "I love this sport."

Patrick Kane for several months had been projected by many hockey experts as the best prospect in this year's draft. On Friday, he finally joined the NHL.

"I've worked for it my whole life," Patrick Kane said. "You never think it's going to happen, but as a kid you're always announcing yourself as the No. 1 pick and breaking all these records in your basement. It's just a dream come true."

Let the whirlwind begin. Kane will fly to Chicago on Monday to meet with the team and tour the United Center. He will zip over to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

"This is just another chapter in the books," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously, I have to prove myself at the next level and prove my size once again to prove people wrong."

Many insiders believe the Blackhawks want Kane to play immediately.

"He's got something special," said Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon. "We're going to be a young team, so he'll get every opportunity to play. We're going to give him every chance to succeed and put him with some good players and see what happens."

Last season Kane was the highest scoring Canadian junior player in three leagues despite missing 10 games with the London (Ont.) Knights to play at the World Junior Championships. He piled up 62 goals and 145 points in 58 games for London. He added 10 goals and 31 points in 16 playoff games.

"He has magical, magical hands and vision," said Blackhawks Assistant GM and former Buffalo Sabre Rick Dudley. "When he has the puck in the offensive zone, he finds people."

The most frequent criticism of Kane at virtually every level he has played is that he's too small. He is generously measured at 5-foot-10. His listed weight of 160 pounds looks about right as he stands on spindly legs that have served him well thus far.

"His big answer to that is, 'I can play this game in this body,' " Tiki Kane said. "He knows what he has to do. He's always been ready for that next step."

Scouts, however, are convinced Kane's superior hand-eye skills will overcome any size deficiencies. Dudley compared him to 2003-04 scoring king Martin St. Louis.

"The numbers don't lie," said Tallon, who entertained offers to trade the pick but had Kane in his sights for months. "You just don't manufacture those. Those numbers aren't a fluke.

"In the last game of the playoffs against Plymouth [Ont.], he got hammered from behind. We thought he broke his neck, but he got back up and scored three points and played great. It didn't seem to faze him at all. The size issue was put to bed."

Once they learned how special Patrick could be on the ice, Tiki and Donna Kane made the gut-wrenching decision to send their 14-year-old prodigy to Detroit to play for Honeybaked, an uber-competitive midget team.

Honeybaked had courted Patrick Kane, then skating for the Depew Saints, and eventually coach Pat Verbeek, the toy bulldog who played much tougher for five NHL teams than his 5-foot-9 frame would suggest, convinced the Kanes to let their son come live with him.

From there, the die was cast. The experience begat his inclusion in the U.S. National Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Although he was one of the younger players, he thrived while playing alongside America's elite prospects, many of whom would go on to be first-round picks ahead of him.

Kane led the U.S. under-17 team in scoring with 32 goals and 70 points in 63 games. He then topped the under-18 team, setting the scoring record with 52 goals and 102 points in just 58 games.

He turned down enticing scholarships to play for the University of Michigan and Boston University to play for London and hopefully prepare for a quick entry into the NHL.

"It's surreal," Donna Kane said. "You can't imagine that you're here and he's the No. 1 pick from Buffalo."

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com1