This is how far Patrick Kane has progressed in the past nine months: Hardly anyone mentions the taxi-cab incident any more.
Almost like it never happened.
For some people and some young players, being exposed and embarrassed the way Kane was for his overt and egotistical burst of physical immaturity last summer, could have been career limiting, if not career threatening.
But here is Kane, five points away from the best playoff numbers Bobby Hull put up, six months away from his 22nd birthday, poised to begin the Stanley Cup final.
The key word being poised.
Of all the comparisons that can be made between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers, between the expected and the unexpected, between the unlikely goaltenders, Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton; between the young captains, Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards; between the stud defencemen, Duncan Keith and Chris Pronger, there is no real Philadelphia answer for Kane.
They have no player as explosive or as skilled.
Kane was the first pick in the 2007 entry draft and it’s almost ironic that his selection also represents the last time Chicago and Philadelphia were considered 1-2 in the hockey business: Only that time it was in a reverse-order situation representing draft position. Kane went first; Philadelphia took James van Riemsdyk with the second choice. If the gap between the Blackhawks and the Flyers is as wide as the developmental gap between Kane and the van Riemsdyk — Kane is outscoring JVR 230 to 35 in their NHL careers to date — this series could be as one-sided as some anticipate it being.
Last summer, Kane arrived at the U.S. Olympic orientation camp outside Chicago with cameras following his every step. He had just been charged in Buffalo with robbery, criminal mischief and theft of services. All it over two dimes and a few stupid punches thrown. And while his lawyers advised him to say nothing, he at least appeared before the cameras and faced whatever subject he was willing to engage.
At that time, Brian Burke and the rest of the American staff had their doubts about who Kane was and what he could bring to the Olympic team. They left the Olympics with no doubts of any kind.
“He was even better than I thought he was,” said Burke.
“His panic threshold with the puck is amazing. He gets much closer to opponents with the puck than most players do and he can hammer it, too.
“He is a dangerous player at all times with the puck, and he can skate.”
Despite how the gold-medal game ended, with Sidney Crosby emerging as the overtime hero for Team Canada, Kane was the best skater on the ice for either team in the biggest game in recent hockey history.
People don’t remember that because everything gets tilted over time in favour of the winning team: And as the final is about to begin, Kane can build on that reputation as a big-game player, so far removed from the where his reputation could have been going.
You forget, sometimes, how young he really is. This is becoming a Cup for young players. Last year, it was Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This year, Kane and Toews. And not unlike Crosby, a first pick himself, Kane lived his first season in Chicago in the home of Stan Bowman, Scotty’s son, who had not yet been named as general manager of the Blackhawks.
And Kane’s Stanley Cup memories, the fresh ones, come from the 1999 final, where his hometown Buffalo Sabres were jobbed out of winning a championship for a city that never wins anything.
Kane was 10 years old back then and away at a hockey tournament when the infamous Brett Hull goal was scored.
He was also asleep, having drifted off sometime between the start of overtime and the controversial goal.
He woke up to the screams and noise in the hallway, kids shouting out “Dallas Stars, Dallas Stars,” and knew his hopes of the Sabres ending their Stanley Cup drought was not to be.
Just as he grapples with another drought now.
This one personal, a Cup final he plans to be awake for and a part of from beginning to end.