Professional athletes spend a good chunk of their time on airplanes traveling from city to city. For one American Airlines flight, an NHL star turned what should have been a routine experience into a surprisingly special moment for a couple of his fellow flyers.
An Unexpected Day
Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane started his day on May 10, 2017, like it was any other offseason travel day. He headed to the airport and hoped that he would just make it to his destination, but then his day changed completely…
The Flight Attendant
Like every commercial flight, a team of flight attendants staffed this flight. Teri Truss had been working with the American Airlines affiliate Envoy Air (formerly American Eagle Airlines) for some time but had no idea what she was about to witness. The Columbus native came to work like she did every day expecting nothing more than things to go well. If she was lucky, perhaps she could snap a photo with a famous patron.
Stardom At A Young Age
Long before Patrick Kane walked on to Teri Truss’s plane, Kane had begun setting himself up for NHL stardom and media attention. The first of four children living in Western New York, Kane devoted his life to hockey from the moment he could tie his own skates. His father, Kiki, became his chauffeur, taking him from rink to rink, city to city, just so his son could work on developing his skills.
Playing With The Big Boys
Kiki tried to always put Patrick in a position to improve. He used to sign him up for upper-level tryouts with no intention of Patrick making the team, rather giving him the experience of playing with older kids and seeing what it takes to be good at that level. At one point, parents petitioned his league to bar him from playing because he was too good. He was given a refund and began playing in a league above his age level.
The Hockey Grind
Although he was considered small, Kane took to hockey’s physicality. Teams would purposefully rough him up to try to get in his head, bumping him and shadowing his every move. No matter how physical it got, Patrick seemed to thrive. He fought through over 300 hockey games a year across New York State, mostly in the Buffalo area. His parents supported him the whole time but did not want to push him so hard that he would burn out.
Moving On Up
At age 14, the Kanes had a difficult decision. Patrick was offered a spot on Honeybaked, a AAA team, but a AAA team in Detroit. With this team, Patrick could put himself in a place to earn a college scholarship and play against some of the best players in the country. To make things easier, Kane was to live with Honeybaked assistant coach Pat Verbeek, a former NHL all-star. His mom drove him the 215 miles to Detroit, knowing this was important to Patrick.
Turning Around A Rocky Beginning
Things did not get off to the start that Patrick had hoped for. Now living in Detroit, Kane frequently battled homesickness, never before being so far away from his family. In time, he realized how important this was and how much closer it brought him to his dream of playing in the NHL. His training paid off, and he became a scoring stud, posting 83 goals and 160 points across 70 games. People started noticing young Patrick.
Turning Down Canada For The Stars And Stripes
In 2004, Kane received another offer that seemed too good to be true. The London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, the premier junior hockey league in Canada, drafted him. However, another opportunity presented itself at home. Kane joined the United States U-18 National Team Development Program with whom he’d score a record 172 points. He’d get his first international action on a gold medal winning U-18 team USA, following it with the Bronze at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
A Big Decision: College or Canada?
The London Knights still held his rights, but college hockey powerhouses kept a close eye on Kane with the hope of luring him to campus. Perennial winners Boston College and Michigan offered him scholarships, but he decided that playing in Canada’s top league would put him in the best position to succeed. Patrick would not disappoint, leading the league in goals scored, and winning Rookie of the Year, sparking rumors of a potential jump to the NHL.
Silencing The Critics
Throughout his season in Ontario, speculation grew that Kane could become the first pick in the NHL draft. Even with his stellar play, critics still believed that he was too small to succeed at the highest level. The Chicago Blackhawks, sitting on the first pick, ignored the pundits, pairing their new young star with a top 3 pick from the year before, Jonathan Toews. Kane was finally in the show and ready to prove that he could hang.
Chicago Welcomes Its New Star
Understanding the magnitude of their talent influx, Chicagoans instantly warmed up to their new sensation. After the draft, he flew to Chicago to begin life as a pro. His first stop, visiting the cathedral of Chicago sports – Wrigley Field. Kane threw out the ceremonial first pitch and followed it by singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame with his new coach during the 7th inning stretch to the roars of his new home and fan base.
Now an NHL rookie, Kane worked his butt off to make it in the league. He had added 10 pounds of muscle before the season started, making his debut on October 4th. He scored his first goal two days later against one of his favorite players growing up, former Buffalo Sabre Dominic Hasek. Two months later, Patrick played his first game in Buffalo. Over 1,000 fans came to watch the hometown hero warm up. He scored Chicago’s only goal to cheers from the home crowd.
First Hat Trick
2009 was the year that truly took Kane’s game to the next level. Along with Jonathan Toews, the pair inspired the Blackhawks to get back to the playoffs. It was the first time the team had been in the Western Conference Finals for nearly two decades. It was an impressive season, with Kane notching a respectable 70 points. Then, on May 11, 2009, against the Vancouver Canucks, Kane got his first career hat trick under his belt, giving the Blackhawks a 7-5 victory.
Although Kane was confident, his opponent, Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell was less so about his ability. In a post-match interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Kane described himself as “fired up” after Mitchell reportedly stated that he “couldn’t play five-one-five.” Naturally, Kane was determined to silence Mitchell and stepped into the rink with the grit and determination to send the Canucks back home to Vancouver. With 14 points in just 16 games, Kane could go home feeling proud, despite getting knocked out in the finals by the Detroit Red Wings.
In light of his rookie heroics, The Blackhawks were desperate to keep Kane around. He was also in the final season of his rookie contract, and so signing a new contract was very important for the owners. In the end, Kane signed a new deal on December 3, 2009, that was reported to be $31.5 million and would keep him at The Blackhawks for five more years. It was also announced that Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith signed contract extensions at the same time.
Face Of The Franchise
After his Rookie of the Year campaign, Patrick became the guy for the Blackhawks. His number 88 jersey became a huge hit with the fans, never staying on the shelves for too long. The Blackhawks started an aggressive marketing campaign around him and Toews, and fans started showing up to watch the dynamic duo. In 2010, Patrick would become not only the face of the Blackhawks but the face of NHL 2010, a video game, as its cover boy.
By the end of the 2009-10 season, Kane was ranked ninth in the NHL scoring charts with a respectable 88 points to his name. It was the best finish he had achieved to date and in his mind, he was confident that he would carry on besting that record. Not only was it a personally good season for Kane, but he also contributed heavily to the Blackhawks success. His team ended up finishing second in the Western Conference, as well as first in the Central Division.
The First Road Bump
The 2009-2010 seasons was poised to be quite successful for the Kane and the Blackhawks. However, before the season, Kane and his cousin got into an altercation with a cab driver. While spending time in Buffalo during the summer, Kane beat up the driver over a dispute with the cost of the ride. They both plead not guilty to second-degree robbery, eventually cleared of any felony charges and plead guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.
Putting Distractions Aside
With his legal issues handled, Kane became one of hockey’s biggest stars in 2010. If people did not know his name, they surely would now. First, he brought Team USA to the brink of a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics. A few months later, Kane led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals, ending Chicago’s 49-year Cup drought with an overtime winner in game 6. His buddy Jonathan Toews would take home the playoff MVP trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Not only was it triumphant moment for the Blackhawks, but Kane was breaking records and creating history with his personal achievements. Due to the fact that he scored the winner to take the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals, this meant that he became the youngest player in NHL history to score a winning goal in overtime in the Stanley Cup. This record hadn’t been broken for 40 years, with Bobby Orr originally setting the record. There was so much more coming for Kane beyond 2010 though.
At The Top Of The Game
2010 was only the beginning for Patrick Kane. Over the next six years, he would bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago in 2013 and 2015. Kane was the Conn Smythe winner for the 2013 championship seasons. Coming off the 2015 championship, Kane had his best season yet, winning the 2015-2016 Hart Trophy for Most Valuable Player and the Ross Trophy for leading the league in points. After 90 years and 56 different winners, Kane became the first American to win the Hart Trophy.
Making An Effort In The Community
After his dustup with the legal system, Kane began to more fully understand his celebrity and the responsibility that came with it. He became more active in the Chicago community, enlisting himself in events for noble causes. In 2012, he played in the Champs for Charity hockey game which raised upwards of $300,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. More recently, he tried his luck on the links as a participant in the Denis Savard Charity Golf Tournament.
The Party Boy
It had been a couple of years since his arrest, but Kane made headlines again in 2012. This time, a drunken weekend in Wisconsin was photographed from start to finish by witnesses. Kane, wearing a custom-made shirt with his face on the back, reportedly went on a spree around town, heading from bar to bar and party to party while being forceful with women and being an overall drunken jerk. In addition, Chicago became an open canvas for his drunken shenanigans.
The 2012-13 season became something of a personal competition to see who could score the most goals. Kane and Toews ended up scoring the same number, with 23 to each of their names. However, Kane did come up trumps in the assisting department with 32 assists and 55 points overall. Kane once again led his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, this time against the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks won the Cup Finals in six games, while Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy, becoming the MVP of the tournament.
There is no doubt that Kane has had his fair share of injuries in recent times that have put his career to a halt. For example, after colliding with Brenden Morrow when he played against the St. Louis Blues, Kane ended up injuring his left leg. He was forced to miss the rest of the season. However, it was just a matter of time before he bounced back in the postseason, contributing eight goals and 12 assists for his team.
Another Run In With The Law
In August 2015, Kane found himself at the center of yet another offseason controversy while home in Buffalo after a few years out of the tabloids. Kane was accused of harassment after an evening out at a Buffalo nightclub. The charges were dropped over a lack of evidence. Still, Kane fought through chants of “no means no” and “she said no” throughout the season. The investigation led EA Sports to remove him from the cover of NHL 2016.
A Tarnished Reputation
Kane’s reputation had suffered greatly from his off-ice incidences, creating a clashing dynamic with his on-ice dominance. He still held on to his hockey fans but was quickly losing the respect of casual fans and those on the outside looking in. With a simple gesture on an American Airlines flight, Kane helped swing the pendulum back away from the dark side and back into people’s good graces and open him up to countless more fans.
Please Take Your Seat
With over $59 million in earnings over his ten year career, Patrick booked himself a first class ticket on this specific flight, something he does regularly when flying commercial. He boarded the flight and prepared to take his seat with all eyes on him. As a three-time champion, MVP, and frequent tabloid star, plenty of hockey fans gawked as he settled in for the flight. The other passengers might have been watching him, but Kane himself could not take his eyes off one person.
The Idea That Changed Everything
To many – regardless of his non-hockey related shenanigans and run-ins – Patrick Kane was a hero. He was an undersized, hard working kid from the rust belt that made his way to the top. As he approached his seat, he spotted someone sitting in coach and could not get him out of his head. Kane became fixated with this man and eventually called the flight attendant over to help with a plot he had hatched.
The Man In Coach
After all his public fails, Kane found a nice opportunity to pay it forward to an unassuming passenger. The man Kane had become infatuated with was a soldier in uniform. Patrick did not have much to offer the seemingly solo soldier but wanted to do anything he could. He called over the flight attendant, Teri Truss, and she could not believe her ears. Kane wanted to switch seats with the soldier and give up his first class seat.
The Shocked Flight Attendant
Teri Truss could not believe what was happening. She had been a flight attendant for years and had never seen a first class passenger give up his or her seat to a coach passenger. She told CBS Chicago about their interaction. “He said, ‘There’s a soldier on this flight,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay?’ He said, “I would like to give him my first class seat, and I’ll go to the back.” She wondered why a random person would do this.
Teri Truss did not know if Kane was for real. Why would someone pay for a first class ticket only to trade it for a coach seat? She asked him if he was sure that he wanted to do this. The six-time NHL all star assured that his intentions were pure and he felt that the serviceman had deserved the opportunity to be more comfortable on his flight. She told Kane that she thought it was a great idea and opportunity.
A Welcomed Gift
Naturally, the soldier could not turn down such a seemingly random and gracious offer. Many of the other passengers were clearly impressed with Kane’s generosity and selflessness. It was a nice look for the notorious party boy, one that would soon escape the confines of the plane’s main cabin. The soldier has remained anonymous, but Truss felt so touched by the moment that she felt it was necessary to share it with the world.
A Photo Opportunity
Teri Truss was so taken aback by the gesture that she felt compelled to ask Kane for a photograph. Having been in the public eye for a decade, Kane was all too comfortable taking pictures with strangers. He happily said yes. After the plane had landed and she had finished up her flight attendant duties, Truss uploaded the photo to her Twitter account. She did not have many followers but felt compelled to share his good deed.
Teri’s Celebrity Gallery
This was not the only time that Teri Truss had captured a moment with a celebrity on her plane. According to her Twitter account, she has had chance encounters recently with singer Michael McDonald (wearing a spiffy Hawaiian shirt), Bravo reality star Kandi Burruss, and zookeeper Jack Hanna (known for his appearances on late night talk shows). Teri was so grateful for the kindness each person showed her but never expected to be so impressed by Kane.
Surprise, He’s Famous!
Teri knew this was an amazing thing for Kane to do and knew that it would make the soldier’s day. What she did not know, however, was that Kane was a world-class hockey player with a Stanley Cup win and a silver medal. Via Twitter, Teri revealed that she had no idea he was a hockey player, nor did she have any clue who he was. She said that the only reason she posted the photo was for the soldier.
The Tweet Takes Off
Teri’s tweet became a hit among fans. While she simply could have posted the photo and commented on seeing another celebrity on board, she used the post to applaud him for his generosity. The tweet reads, “Patrick Kane from the BLACKHAWKS gave up his 1st Class seat to a SOLDIER…What a class act.” With a limited online following and no hashtags attached to the tweet, what could have been a nice moment became a viral sensation.
Many Twitter users seemed to feel similarly to Truss and began to spread the tweet like wildfire. The tweet has almost five thousand retweets and near 20,000 likes. Online news sites within the news, sports, airline, and military industries picked up the story and spread it to their readership. One Twitter user, Cheryl Neary, wrote, “He’s showing respect to those who’ve given so much! Great move!” After years of ridicule in the press, Kane was happy to see his name in a positive non-hockey light.
Not everyone appreciated Teri’s tweet. Many people replied to her tweet by noting his alleged harassment, and how that does not make him a class act. Teri fended off most of the naysayers, commenting that she was unaware of his past. She only wanted the post to show his good deed, not make a commentary on his life’s actions. Teri made sure to have Kane’s back in a handful of tweet chains, continuing to applaud him for switching seats.
During the flight, the soldier walked to the coach cabin and made sure to thank Kane again for his kind offer. Truss told a local Chicago radio station that Kane was “awesome” about the whole situation. Kane will indeed be judged by his actions beyond the flight, but for at least one news cycle, Patrick Kane became a hero off the ice for the first time in a while. For Teri and the soldier, they have a great story to hold on to.