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Column: A Patrick Kane Kerfuffle For Blackhawks, Red Wings fans

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Oh, that Chris Chelios jersey retirement ceremony just got a whole lot more interesting thanks to Patrick Kane. Like Chelios, he’ll be partying like it’s 1999 in Detroit. And also like Chelios, he’ll potentially be hearing the boos cascade from the furthest reach of the United Center that night.

When Kane chose to sign with the Detroit Red Wings today, it’s not as brutal to the Blackhawks fan psyche as was a trade to the arch rival, one that Chelios gave his blessing to.

But it’s still going to sting.

Meanwhile, there’s a number of Red Wings fans less than enthused with the move–albeit for different reasons.

But what a wild thing to see.

The Patrick Kane Kerfuffle for Blackhawks, Red Wings Fans

Of a different era, Kane was the face of the Blackhawks. Young, brash, and wildly talented, he dazzled with his goal scoring, cellys, and absolutely got under the skin of fans for every other team. But if he was on your side, he was beloved.

As the Blackhawks slowed to a rebuild, Kane was more associated with the team’s past than he was the future. This became apparent when general manager Kyle Davidson dealt him to the New York Rangers, while also explaining his reasoning for moving on from Kane and eventually, Jonathan Toews.

But the camps were split. On the one end, there’s a segment of the fanbase upset that Kane didn’t retire a Blackhawk. Many of those same fans will be upset with this signing, if not only for the Red Wings getting him, but also watching the Blackhawks starving for goal scoring–and Kane not being there to help.

Davidson explained his reasoning and it is the right way to go. I’ve agreed with his vision from the beginning and to be honest, it’s from watching how the Red Wings descended into a rebuild hell for hanging onto veterans for too long. Well that, drafting poorly, and Ken Holland not wanting to commit to the brutal full fledged rebuild Detroit needed to do.

The Blackhawks chose the other route, committing to it, while telling their franchise faces they’d be doing so without them.

On the Red Wings side, well, it’s a little different of an argument. Red Wings fans, like their counterpart feels of them, despise everything Blackhawks. Some of that is because of the long standing rivalry and general distaste between Chicago and Detroit.

But in regards to Kane, some of it has to do with what happened in 2010. There’s an accountability piece many fans–across the board not just in Detroit–feel that Kane and the rest of the players never owned up to in what was a deplorable situation.

It’s a personality they don’t want in the locker room. Beyond that, Kane to many of the same fans is the smarmy face of the Blackhawks.

But the real cognitive dissonance here is that general manager Steve Yzerman, who is seen as the gold standard of not only leadership but front office management to Red Wings fans, is the one who just signed Kane. Finally, after years of a rebuild wasteland, they’re watching the team head into potential contention with a guy so many detest.

How could Yzerman do this they wonder as they’re on the cusp of being relevant again. Doesn’t he care about the team? The culture? 

Well, yes. But the true reality is that in order for the Red Wings to get where they need to, there are tough choices along the way that need to be made. There’s a chance that the 35-year-old’s hip doesn’t hold up and it’s a wash.

But the previous returns, combined with the star power Kane could potentially unlock with some of the other rostered players there now, is too good to pass up for the man they affectionately refer to as simply, The Captain.

Blackhawks fans can tell Red Wings fans exactly what Kane did for other players. It’s why so many still want him back on a line with Connor Bedard.

The Situation is Exactly What it Should Be

Both fan bases have their reasons to hold their respective feelings. But the true reality of the situation is that as time has marched on, so too have the circumstances.

For the Blackhawks, they’re trying to build a new locker room of leaders and that doesn’t involve clinging to their past glory days. That new room is a spot where players like Bedard, and Kevin Korchinski can learn organically and then in turn, naturally lead with the lessons learned.

The Red Wings are not only trying to be a destination again, but a spot where Stanley Cup conversations are common place. It’s been over a decade since Detroit been considered a contender, the final gasp coming against the Blackhawks no less after Brent Seabrook put them to rest in Game 7 of the 2013 semi-finals.

It might not be preferred, and it’s certainly doesn’t have to be liked. But both management sides have made their decisions and from an objective standpoint, they sure as heck make sense from a hockey perspective.

How it all works out remains to be seen. But like Chelios when he returned to the Windy City and Marian Hossa, who spent but a year in Detroit before moving to Chicago, the boobirds will be ready and waiting.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s working out exactly as it’s supposed to.

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