With 4,211 people allowed inside American Airlines Center for the game, Hawks fans from across Texas and elsewhere gathered in Dallas on Tuesday for Kane’s milestone moment.
Jordan Homa was watching a Blackhawks game late last month at her home in Houston when she heard the broadcast mention Patrick Kane’s 1,000th career NHL game was coming up.
‘‘My curious mind went to Google and typed in, ‘How many games has Patrick Kane played?’ ’’ she said. ‘‘I did the math to figure out when 1,000 was, and I looked at the calendar.’’
The verdict: March 9 in Dallas — just a four-hour drive away. She texted her dad to get him on board and bought two tickets.
On Tuesday, she made the pilgrimage across eastern Texas to be one of the relatively few Hawks fans to witness Kane’s milestone moment in person.
‘‘This is a moment I’ll get to tell my kids about,’’ she said. ‘‘I think that’s pretty special.’’
Kane’s 1,000th game originally was set to be at home Sunday against the Lightning. The Hawks-Hurricanes postponement Feb. 20, however, bumped the timeline back one game, depriving Kane of the chance to enjoy the milestone in Chicago.
That might have been for the best, though. With no fans yet allowed inside the United Center, Sunday was a strange environment. In fact, Kane said Tuesday he’s waiting to do a full ceremony until fans have returned.
In Dallas, which has allowed some fans into American Airlines Center since the start of the season, at least there was some energy in the building for the occasion. The announced attendance for the 6-1 Hawks loss was 4,211.
‘‘I was thinking that, as well,’’ Kane said after the morning skate Tuesday. ‘‘Chicago fans always seem to travel well to Dallas or any other city. It’s amazing to have the support.’’
Coach Jeremy Colliton concurred.
‘‘It’s not the same [as a full arena], but there’s still a live energy to it,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of times, the 3,000 or 4,000 people that are there, they take it seriously as far as bringing energy. You like it.’’
The thousand or so Hawks fans — many of whom get to see their favorite team only rarely, much less see big occasions for their favorite team — mixed among the Stars’ supporters in attendance definitely took it seriously.
‘‘I couldn’t believe it,’’ said Matthew Bevers, a lifelong Texas resident-turned-Hawks fan with tickets in Section 306. ‘‘I was talking to my girlfriend about how fortunate [it is] that we’re going to be able to be there. This is an incredible thing to be there for, something I can talk about forever.’’
‘‘We originally had planned to go Thursday night, but we switched to Tuesday,’’ said Section 314 ticket-holder Joey Smith, who watched Kane highlights ‘‘for hours’’ Sunday after realizing what Tuesday would be. ‘‘Everything just [fell] into place perfectly to be his 1,000th career game.’’
Hawks games in popular snowbird cities and states — Arizona, Dallas, Florida, Carolina, Nashville — often are filled with contingents of fans clad in red and black.
The COVID restrictions this season temporarily have slowed that turnout, but the huge public interest in Kane’s milestone game Tuesday brought it back. Hours before the game, the cheapest resale tickets on Stubhub were around $55, with lower-bowl tickets more than $100. Those are typical prices in Chicago but atypical in Dallas.
For the many Chicagoans who now live in Texas, however, those prices were worth it.
Caitlin O’Sullivan saw Kane’s championship-sealing goal in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final in person. Having since relocated to Dallas, she cherished this opportunity to see history made again, albeit in slightly less dramatic fashion.
‘‘I’ve grown up watching Patrick Kane on the Hawks,’’ she said. ‘‘Now that I don’t live in Chicago anymore, that homesick nostalgia factor to see something so important to one of my teams, to one of the players so important to that team, is very special.’’
Zach Klein, a former Hawks employee, felt his homesickness disappear altogether.
‘‘I wish I could still be in Chicago, seeing more Blackhawks games,’’ Klein said shortly before heading up to Section 332. ‘‘But I think I’ll make an exception for this one.’’
Other Hawks fans still living in Chicago but obviously unable to see the Hawks at home this season traveled down specifically for the game.
‘‘I decided: ‘Let’s go down. Why not?’ ’’ said Gary Winthrope, who drove 15 hours and stayed overnight in Missouri to make it work. ‘‘The atmosphere is something that everyone has missed, so it’s going to be awesome to be in a stadium that’s cheering for a goal, no matter who it is.’’
And for Will Brault, who moved away from his Chicago-based family for college, the game was a reunion.
‘‘[My brother] booked his flight on Sunday,’’ Brault said. ‘‘I told him: ‘I’ve got two tickets to this game; I’m going regardless.’ And he was like: ‘All right, yeah. I’ll come down.’ ’’
Several fans mentioned Texas’ lack of intense hockey culture as something that made the anticipation for the game even sweeter.
But big events such as this one, even if it did occur in Dallas purely by happenstance, help to change that culture. Bevers, for example, said watching Kane inspired him to start playing hockey just last year.
‘‘Hopefully [Kane] can hear some Hawks fans in the stands,’’ Brault said. ‘‘Because he means a lot to the city of Chicago, and we want to show him that all the way down in Texas.’’