Patrick Kane and His Grandfather Serve As a Lesson for Hockey Fans

Last night’s Blackhawks 5-3 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Kings was about something more than just 2 points.

Patrick Kane's Grandfather
After both of his goals against the Kings, Kane put a finger to his lips and raised it skyward in a tribute to his grandfather (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Donald Kane, Patrick Kane’s grandfather, passed away before the game on February 3rd. Described by the shifty Blackhawks forward as his “great friend,” Donald was an authority figure who looked beyond Kane’s immense hockey talent to that which was – and is – far more important.

Many would now choose to launch into a discussion of how much Patrick Kane has matured as a human being since some early-career missteps. But to do so would be a disservice to him. The tired, stale narrative of Kane’s personal development reeks of the ridiculous media-constructed drivel that were the “controversies” of Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, and many athletes before them. Kane is but the most recent professional to so clearly demonstrate that which sports fans sometimes need to be reminded.

Watch Kane as he answers reporter’s questions about his grandfather after the game.

What was your initial reaction other than sadness at seeing this?

Surprise? A bit taken aback that a professional athlete is crying on camera in front of a throng of media members?

Because that was mine, and I felt terrible for it. A troublesome realization then hit me.

We – and I use that word deliberately, because we are all sports fans – sometimes forget that the people we root for every night to block that shot, run through the middle of the field on a 10-yard crossing route, and unabashedly drive to the rim through contact… are just that. People.

Human beings with emotions, with lives of their own, families they love. They are not simply there to be on your television screen each night, not reducible to a monetary contract, not mindless drones whose sole purpose is to captivate an audience.

Surprise hits us when we see these athletes in vulnerable states because we forget that they can be in vulnerable states. We are privy to these same people performing some of the most incredible physical feats in the world, and in the process we lose track of our conception of these people as human beings.

“That hockey player can’t be ‘just like me.’ I could never do what he just did out there.”

It doesn’t matter.

Because they are just like you. Just like me. They are human beings in a world where death is an inevitable and unrelenting reality, where every bit of love is eventually accompanied by an equivalent loss.

In our world of bright lights, mass entertainment, and prodigious commodification, Patrick Kane is but the latest to remind us of that which we should never forget.

My condolences to the Kane family on behalf of THW.