NEW YORK — The New York Rangers shook up the hockey world this week when they acquired three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane from the Chicago Blackhawks. They had to move mountains to make it work financially — most notably playing several games a few players short — but they pulled it off.
On Thursday, reality started to sink in. Kane took part in an optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden, this time for the home side. He was later introduced in a press conference as the newest member of the Rangers wearing blue attire. All of this was new to him, and even he wasn't sure how he'd feel in his debut.
"I guess we'll see," Kane said before the game. "But definitely a little bit nervous. Probably more nervous than I've been for a regular-season game in a long time. But I think that's good. I'm pretty excited about it."
When he made his entrance and stepped foot onto the ice for pregame warmups, Kane received a loud ovation. The decibel level got higher when he was announced as a starter. Showtime had arrived.
"I didn't really know what it was going to be like until I got out there, so it was pretty special," Kane said. "It's a special place to play, Original Six franchise, New York Rangers, playing at MSG and you get a reception like that, it's something I'll never forget."
The entire experience, though, was admittedly different for Kane. Very different.
"Just everything," Kane said. "How you come to the rink, how you come to the game, different colors, different things like that. But excited to be here and excited to get better and play better for my teammates."
Heck, Kane wasn't even the last one to leave the ice for warmups, which has been his tradition ever since he entered the NHL. It was Artemi Panarin.
"It's his team, so I'll let him have that honor," Kane said smiling.
Kane's family wasn't in attendance for his debut because his sister had a baby on Wednesday, but his girlfriend Amanda and two-and-a-half-year-old son Patrick Kane III were. He shared a special moment with them during warmups and also gave PKIII a puck when he left the ice, which he usually flicks into the crowd.
"I think it makes everything a little bit easier," Kane said. "Great to have them along with me. It would've been nice to have my family here too, but I think they'll make their way to a lot of games here down the stretch. But yeah, great to have them here, for sure."
Kane said the nerves settled down after his first few shifts, but he did acknowledge feeling "a little bit rusty" after not playing for eight days. He's someone that likes to be on the ice a lot to get into a rhythm.
What did stand out, however, was his almost immediate chemistry with Panarin again. The two of them showed flashes of what made them so successful in Chicago together, even though they probably deferred more than they would have liked.
"I thought it was OK," Kane said of his line. "I think maybe we were looking to pass a little bit too much to start but had a couple good looks along the way. Hopefully it's one of those things it just gets better and better."
Overall, the energy in the building was palpable. The Rangers acquired a future Hall of Famer, which signaled they're all-in on trying to end a 29-year Stanley Cup drought.
Nobody loves the big stage more than Kane, who is one of the clutchest players of this era. While the first game probably didn't go the way he wanted after losing 5-3 to his former linemate Alex DeBrincat and the Ottawa Senators, it will likely only be a matter of time before Showtime shines bright on Broadway.
"It was awesome," Kane said. "The crowd and coming out for warmups, pregame introduction and just first game as a Ranger, it was a pretty cool experience. Obviously I would've liked to play a little bit better and come out with a win but hopefully it'll come."
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