By Paul M. Banks
It’s known as the “Grand Tour,” a rite of passage for college kids. Upon completion of college, or perhaps during the summer in-between, college students often go sightseeing in continental Europe. Patrick Kane, and many of his Chicago Blackhawks teammates are college age or younger. Since they find themselves playing in the NHL instead of going away to school, they can consider this week’s trip to Switzerland and Finland, their Grand Tour.
On Monday afternoon, the Blackhawks played the first of two European exhibition contests at Zurich’s Hallenstadion Arena against HC Davos. Chicago won Monday’s contest 9-2; including two goals from star left-wing Patrick Kane, who I had an exclusive with back in Chicago, just before the team flew across the pond.
“It will be cool. Hopefully, we can get some Blackhawks fans over there that can cheer us on pretty good. From watching soccer games on TV and being in world championships things like that- those European crowds can get pretty crazy with waving the flags, the face-paint and things like that. I’m sure we’ll enjoy it,” he said.
I also asked him about the power play, which has struggled mightily in exhibition matches. “Once we get out there on the power play, we pretty much know what to do. We’ve been with each other for a couple years here, so hopefully we get some practice in the exhibition and we work on it there,” Kane said.
The Blackhawks will join the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers as National Hockey League teams selected to participate in “NHL Premiere,” launching the 2009-10 regular season. The Blackhawks and Panthers will play “home-and-home” games at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, on Fri., Oct. 2 and Sat., Oct. 3. This will be the Blackhawks’ first-ever regular-season game in Europe, but not Kane’s first trip to the old continent.
“I’ve been there a couple times. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do that, but we’re excited about it and getting the season started…I’ve been to Germany, Russia, I haven’t been to Switzerland so that will be a goal for me. Finland, it can be pretty dark when you’re there in the winter, but luckily we’re going there a little bit earlier, so that’s pretty nice,” Kane said.
The trip should also help build chemistry within a team that had an off-season filled with adversity. “Going overseas for a couple weeks really helps us bond, as we really get to hang out with each other. Usually, when we’re at the rink we hang out, but then we go home and do our own thing and come back the next day. But there, we’ll probably be together 24-7,” Kane said.
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