BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Stanley Cup was back in Western New York on Saturday. For the second time in four years, South Buffalo's Patrick Kane of the NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks brought hockey's holy grail on a tour of the area.
This time there was another piece of hardware along for the ride - the Conn Smythe Trophy - which Kane earned as the MVP of the playoffs.
We caught up with Kane beginning Saturday morning at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, as he and the Cup arrived in a military vehicle to a crowd filled with service personnel and their families.
"I saw the thing on ESPN with the heroes coming home, back to their families," Kane said. "That just hit home with me pretty hard and my family too. So I thought it was big so I knew at that moment I wanted to bring the Cup to the military anywhere, and fortunately we have one here in Buffalo."
The next stop was Imperial Pizza in Kane's native South Buffalo, where the fans showed up in mass to meet and greet the playoff MVP from just down the street. Kane said he grew up four or five blocks from the restaurant.
"I didn't expect to see what I saw out there," said Jim Bouris, co-owner of Imperial Pizza, when asked about the hundreds of people who gathered to see Kane. "It's pretty amazing. It's a good thing for South Buffalo, it's a good thing for Buffalo in general. To have a superstar come out, it's great."
Then it was off to the town ice rink in West Seneca. A massive line that seemed to stretch a mile awaited as Kane and the Cup cruised in style on a zamboni with a parade of youth hockey players following closely behind him.
Droves of fans then poured into the rink to see a hockey hero who shares the same roots as them. And in fitting fashion, Patrick Kane took off his Chicago Blackhawks jersey, and donned the sweater of the West Seneca Wings youth team, for which Kane once played.
It was a show of appreciation for the team and community that helped raise him into the player he is today.
"I spent about five years here playing for the West Seneca Wings," Kane said to a delighted crowd. "They were a great five years, and they helped me get better as a player. It's great to see many faces that still wear this jersey and represent West Seneca so well."
The Stanley Cup made its way around Buffalo again, not for the Sabres, but maybe the next best thing - a bonafide superstar of the sport who honed his skills in rinks around Western New York.