When Patrick Kane entered a pre-party for the Second Annual Chicago Hockey Charity Classic at the MB Ice Arena on Saturday, nearly every youngster from age 3-17 made a beeline for the Blackhawks superstar.
Cellphones were whipped out. Dozens of photos taken. Jerseys and pictures signed.
Until every kid was satisfied.
Just like he was last year, Kane was once again the marquee name on hand to raise money for Special Olympics Chicago.
“Just being part of it was exciting to me last year and I wanted to do it again,” Kane said. “It’s pretty much a no-brainer for me to commit to that and join in the festivities.
“Say hi to a few people, talk to a few people and play a hockey game with some great guys out here. It’s for a great cause.”
In addition to headliners like Kane, Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza, other players taking part included former Hawks Eric Daze, Brandon Bollig and Reid Simpson, the Predators’ Craig Smith, the Avalanche’s Ian Cole and goalie Garret Sparks, an Elmhurst native who is in the Maple Leafs’ system. Kane’s team featured Josh Pauls, a sled-hockey player from New Jersey.
Kevin Magnuson, son of former Hawks defenseman Keith Magnuson, also took part. Kevin has been on the Special Olympics Chicago board for 12 years and just finished a two-year stint as president.
Keith, who passed away in a car accident in 2003, was introduced to Special Olympics in 1970 by teammate Stan Mikita.
“My dad was hooked,” Kevin said. “We always knew when he had been with athletes during the day (because) he came home with the biggest smile on his face. He would literally would float into the room.”
Kevin dedicated Saturday’s Charity Classic to Mikita, who passed away at age 78 on Aug. 7.
Last year’s event, held at the Fox Valley Ice Arena, was attended by 1,700 fans and raised nearly $140,000. This event had approximately 500 fans and raised about $50,000.
Organizers attempted to hold it at Fox Valley again, but scheduling conflicts with several players forced them to hold it later than originally planned.
A silent auction featured a signed, framed picture of the gold-medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team; a goalie mask painted with the Special Olympics 50th anniversary logo with a tribute to Mikita on the back; and a Chicago Bears hat signed by Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Dan Hampton, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, William Perry, Otis Wilson, Jim Covert and many more.
The 1980 photo was a carry-over from last year’s event because no one bid on it, but it went for $2,500 this year. The goalie mask went for $750.
As for the game, Team Hinostroza prevailed over Team Kane 8-7 in a shootout. Kane, who belly-flopped to the ice last year on his shootout attempt to avoid embarrassing anyone, tried a halfhearted stickhandling move this year but was denied by goalie Ken Baker.
The crowd was in hysterics as the 48-year-old Baker pumped his fist a few times after denying the Hawks’ seven-time all-star.
All in all it was a successful night, thanks in large part to Magnuson and event organizer Topher Scott getting a commitment from Kane.
“That’s the game-breaker,” Magnuson said. “Him being involved and Vinnie Hinostroza — both of them being leaders is just fantastic.
“Also, to have friends and clients of my own play in the game and everyone saying, ‘I’m coming in. I’ll be there.’ It just means the world to me.”