Believe it or not, the world doesn't know Patrick Kane. Damn shortsighted and parochial of the world, isn't it?
Well, planet earth is about to get a rude awakening from our bouncing baby Blackhawk, once an endangered species, and the next ripple you hear in Chicago won't be an earthquake.
It will be Kane's introduction to mankind, which still might register on the Richter Scale, where 5 or 6 or however many goals could shake up his fluid reputation again and heighten his profile.
Starting next week, after two more games this weekend in the NHL with the Blackhawks, Kane skates onto the slippery slope and into the heady aura of a world stage when Team USA opens the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver by playing Switzerland at 2 p. m. (Chicago time) Tuesday and begins the preliminary rounds.
Then it's Kane against Norway next Thursday and battling his buddy Jonathan Toews, as well as teammates Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Sunday Feb. 21 when Team USA gets their shot to stun everyone, including themselves, by playing Team Canada and facing up to luminaries such as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.
That's a 6:45 p. m. prime time showdown (Chicago time) a week from Sunday. Don't miss it. Kane might arrive on the scene all over again, emerging as an international icon.
After Feb. 21 and Kane's big date with Canada, it's anybody's guess. Trekking slowly home, still an unknown to the world at large, or bound for glory?
If Kane can personally beat Crosby and Canada, he will have suddenly become the USA Hockey mug that is plastered everywhere. He will have graduated from the taxi squad in Buffalo to the guy driving one of the biggest media vehicles going in the Olympics. We send out Patty with pride to the world and who knows what we'll get back.
Mega-stardom is within his grasp in the next couple weeks. As long as he balances work and play and doesn't make a starring appearance on TMZ.
"He doesn't make any mistakes on or off the ice," Team Canada boss Steve Yzerman gushed about Sid "The Saint" Crosby, his boy wonder. "He's the face of Canadian hockey and he's totally comfortable with that."
Well, Kane isn't the face of anything except EA's NHL '10 and one of the league's most storied franchises that has experienced a rebirth thanks in part to him...and, oh, yeah, he is the face of that Facebook page where he shed clothing in Vancouver last month to compete for the girl scout troop's Hunk Of The Week Hockey contest, an on-going competition against all the other NHL players blowing through town looking for a taste of girl scout cookies.
Unlike Crosby, Kane has gained quite a reputation off ice as well as on, and we sorta like our heroes in Chicago being real. We had no problems for instance with Jim McMahon mooning Super Bowl helicopters intruding on his privacy or Michael Jordan living a lifestyle where his wife ended up being the one in full midair flight from his act of taking on all comers whenever challenged to go higher and higher.
And you thought it all started with Tigers Woods. Nope, this is an inheritance passed on from superstar to superstar, from generation to generation.
Are you ready, Chicago? Are you ready, world? Kane appeals to all ages, gossipy old nags that like sniffing the scandal sheets and bright-eyed girls and boys who can relate to a fella that's part Huckleberry Finn, part Eminem, part Joe Namath, part Denis Savard, and pretty much three-quarters Bobby Hull, except for the hair. All live wire.
Kid Galahad could be the belle of this ball, because he so enjoys scrambling those letters to read KID HAD-A-GAL or simply KID GALA, a rollicking roustabout coming straight to your stage and the wide, wide world of sports (I know, I'm mixing networks) from Al Capone's rootin'-tootin' hometown, which is still how much of the world identifies Chicago.
Oh, yeah, that place, with the pizza and the machine guns and the polar bears and Oprah.
Team USA's Olympic opener is a 12 p. m. puck drop in Vancouver, so Kane still has time to gather the girl scout troop for a Monday night reprise in the party limo, get John Madden and Kris Versteeg on the laptop webcam, try reverse-role playing and have the gals be the ones that take off their shirts this time round for the paparazzi shoot, roast them a few marshmallows, drown them with Jagermeister shooters for the international spirit, park at Lover's Leap in Stanley Park for belated Valentine canoodling under the moonlight and hit the hay without the need of a police escort to help him say his evening prayers.
Get a couple hours beauty sleep to keep those curls the girls like so much kinky (oh to be young again), and be up in time to answer questions for the Today Show about perhaps being the Bo Belinsky of the NHL (you young'uns need to go google Belinsky), and still have time to sharpen his other stick by hurrying to the rink to represent the red, white and blue.
Whew! It's going to be the quite the whirlwind schedule for Kane at the Olympics. But fame comes with a price.
That price used to be 20 cents last summer when he found himself enmeshed in some late night blues. But that price has gone up with the red, white and blue involved. He needs to walk a fine, thin line between hero and heretic to stay on the right side of team president John McDonough and his marketing army.
Kane has quite a bit on the line on the world stage. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Blackhawks have ordered that he be chaperoned all through the Olympic affair.
I just hope Chris Chelios is available to take the chaperone job. I wobble once in a while on my bad knees, too, especially when I have held a high-level meeting with my liquor cabinet.
Let's part with the sobering, and yet humorous, reflections of pitcher Bo Belinsky, whose star glittered brightly and faded reluctantly in the major leagues.
"I went from a major league ballplayer to hanging onto a brown bag under the bridge, but I had my moments and I have memories," Bo said. "If I had the attitude about life then that I have now, I'd have done a lot of things differently.
"But you make your rules and you play by them. I knew the bills would come due eventually, and I knew I wouldn't be able to cover them."
Have some fun at the Olympics, Patrick, night-time, day-time, all-the-time.
And recognize if you have any quiet time, the bills will come due. Bo knows. That's hard to see when you're rich and 21, but sometimes all the money in the world can't pay them.