Despite its designation as the “Second City,” Chicago is in a class of its own when it comes to having some of the most exciting athletes in the sports world.
Players like Walter Payton and Gale Sayers have dazzled fans on the gridiron for the Bears. Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita teamed up to win a Stanley Cup and wowed fans at the Chicago Stadium for the Blackhawks. Frank Thomas and Sammy Sosa electrified their respective sides of town with their prodigious power and MVP-caliber seasons for the White Sox and Cubs.
Of course, there is one king to rule them all when it comes to Chicago athletes, and that is Michael Jordan. In the process of winning six championships with the Bulls, Jordan not only redefined greatness for NBA players, but he also created a whole new world for athletes in general with his commercial success.
Nowadays, there are plenty of star athletes to choose from nationally, but no player in the Windy City has really seized Jordan’s mantel as the most exciting player in the city.
That’s because Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has ratcheted his game up to a whole new level this season. If it hadn’t been for a season-ending lower body injury, Kane would have eclipsed the 30-goal mark for only the second time in his career. He is one of the most gifted scorers in the league, tallying goals that few players could even dream of scoring. He also has incredible vision on the ice, making passes that occasionally surprise his teammates because of their quickness and ability to be squeezed into ridiculously tight spaces.
In the playoffs, Kane’s performance in recent years has been almost Jordan-esque. He is nearly a point per game player in the postseason, racking up 81 points (35 goals, 46 assists) in 86 career games, and he is already in fifth place on the Blackhawks’ all-time scoring list in postseason play at only 25 years of age. This season, he already has two overtime winners in the playoffs, including one in Game 6 of the second round series against the Minnesota Wild that clinched the series and propelled the Hawks to the Western Conference Final for the second consecutive season.
With all of those accomplishments, it seems pretty obvious to say, but it bears spelling out: Patrick Kane is the best Chicago athlete since Michael Jordan.
His teammate Jonathan Toews does have a compelling argument for the same title, with similar numbers and an ability to contribute in all areas of the ice, but Toews doesn’t have the same “domination” gear that Kane seems to have. When the chips were down for the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the series, it was Kane who sliced through the Minnesota defense and scored the go-ahead goal in the third period. When the Blackhawks needed a win to seize a pivotal Game 5 against the Boston Bruins in 2013, Kane was the one who seized the moment and scored a key goal. Kane also has ended series against the Philadelphia Flyers (to win the organization’s first Stanley Cup in 49 years) and the Los Angeles Kings, and his playoff legend seems to grow with each passing game.
That penchant for eye-popping moments of brilliance makes Kane the great player that he is. Jordan had the shot over Craig Ehlo. Kane had his backhanded top shelf goal to beat the Wild. Jordan had his shoulder shrug after drilling yet another three-pointer against the Portland Trail Blazers. Kane had his “show time” moment in this year’s postseason. Both players not only have the perfect amount of confidence in their games, but they also have the ability to channel that confidence into mind-melting displays of skill, and that is what sets them both apart in the annals of Chicago sports history.
It’s unlikely that Kane will ever usurp Wayne Gretzky (or Bobby Orr, depending on the hockey fan one asks) as the greatest to ever lace up a pair of skates, but if he stays in Chicago for the remainder of his career, then it’s possible that he could go down as the greatest Chicago athlete of all-time. Jordan has six rings and a slew of other hardware to back up his case, but with two Stanley Cup titles in four seasons and the chance to win a third, Kane is already off to a flying start.