OTL: Where Is The Puck?
CHICAGO -- As he faked right, left and right again, Patrick Kane carried a half century of frustration on the end of his stick. The Chicago Blackhawks had been the Cubs of hockey. They hadn't won a Stanley Cup since John F. Kennedy was president. But now, as Kane skated toward the net, he had a chance to change that.
He glided until he was almost parallel to the goal. It was a seemingly impossible angle. Yet Kane flicked the puck toward the net, where it slipped between goalie Michael Leighton's legs and vanished.
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This is where our mystery begins.
You would think finding a puck from the biggest hockey game of the year would be easy. That's what I thought when my editors asked me to find Kane's magic puck. With more than a dozen HD television cameras in the building that night, and some 20,000 eyewitnesses, many of whom were carrying their own cell phones and cameras, I figured I would just watch a few video clips, find the first person who touched the puck, ask him what he did with it and follow the trail. Easy stuff, right? Anyone who refused to talk or told a lie would be a suspect.
But what if you could never find the first person to touch the puck?
What if two people watching the same play tell you two different stories?
Or what if you come up with convincing visual evidence that seems to solve the mystery, but an NHL executive swears that you're wrong?
Then what would you do? Then whom would you believe?
The puck Kane shot past Leighton to give the Chicago Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years is nothing more than a 6-ounce piece of rubber. But try telling that to Blackhawks fans. This is the puck that scored the most famous goal in Chicago sports history and only the 15th overtime Stanley Cup winner of all time. If the puck doesn't matter, why did the Hockey Hall of Fame ask for it immediately after the game? And why is a Chicago restaurant owner offering a $50,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with the puck?
The case of the missing puck is a story the NHL would like to go away. It's part "CSI," part "Slap Shot." It involves the FBI, a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department and the man who bought and blew up another famous piece of Chicago sports memorabilia. The stories are wacky. There's a policeman who swears the puck is at a pawn shop in Rockford, Ill., and an elderly lady who insists one of the Flyers has it -- all you have to do is watch the tape.
By the end, you'll wonder whether your eyes are playing tricks on you. You'll have more questions than answers. You'll be stunned to find out the Kane puck is hardly the only Stanley Cup winner that's missing. And you'll wonder who's telling the truth, who's lying and, perhaps most importantly, what they are trying to hide...