There’s something different about Patrick Kane this season. The Chicago Blackhawks winger is on a scoring streak, sitting only three points behind Thomas Vanek in scoring in the league. He’s hustling on the ice like a man on fire. He’s acting more mature on and off the ice. But there’s something else that’s different about him, and you have to watch him closely to notice it. There seems to be something missing.
Even keen-eyed fans probably haven’t noticed that Kane isn’t using the mouthguard that’s been his signature since his rookie year. From then through last season, it was common to see it hanging from the corner of his mouth as he zipped between opposing players, and he would chew on it between whistles. Johan Franzen once yanked it from his mouth and threw it to the ice. While his teammates went through maybe 10 a season at the most, Kane went through 15 to 20.
What made Kane part ways with the piece of plastic that’s so iconic, it’s a feature of all his bobbleheads? The break began when he played in Switzerland, where they didn’t have any for him. He ended up not playing with one while he was there, and when he came back and tried ones that Blackhawks trainers offered him, they didn’t feel right to him.
It’s likely that we’ve seen the last of his mouthguard munching. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, Kane feels it’s a distraction because he’d be concentrating more on the mouthguard than his play. While he’s on such a hot streak, he’ll refrain from using it and will have to think about using it again.
Rest in peace, little mouthguard. You’ll forever be a part of Chicago sports history.