THE blessing has come from one of the Winnipeg Jets' original saints, an icon in this town and in hockey to this very day.
Yes, it's now official: Evander Kane will wear No. 9 for the Jets this season after the organization consulted Bobby Hull and he gave the thumbs up to the idea of the gifted young winger wearing his old digit on his back.
All this became a bit of a hot-button issue earlier this summer when Kane suggested to a Vancouver reporter he would like to keep the number he wore in Atlanta and in junior -- with Hull's blessing, of course. Immediately, fans began debating whether the Jets' franchise could reclaim its previous history from the Phoenix Coyotes and if Hull's No. 9 should be considered untouchable along with Dale Hawerchuk's No. 10 and the No. 25 worn by Thomas Steen.
For the record, in originally inquiring about the availability of Hull's old number, Kane also offered to switch to No. 91. But according to Jets director of corporate communications Scott Brown the team 'strongly encouraged' him to keep wearing No. 9.
It's also worth mentioning that Doug Smail wore No. 9 for eight years after Hull's departure from the Jets.
"It's very cool to be able to wear No. 9," Kane said Wednesday night in a phone interview from Vancouver.
"Bobby was an outstanding player who represented the city and it's definitely a real honour to be able to wear that number. You know, I was just checking about what the organization's plans were for No. 9 and then this story seemed to become a lot bigger than I thought it would."
"And I did get the feeling from a lot of people on Twitter and others that many were encouraging me to wear it.
"I'm pretty excited just to see a jersey let alone to pull one on," Kane added with a chuckle. "It's going to be fun for all the guys that first day in the dressing room pulling on that jersey for the first time. That opening night against the Montreal Canadiens (Oct. 9)... it's a little bit away still, but it's hard not to think about it. It's going to be a real special moment in which history will be made. I can't wait."
Kane said he was in Winnipeg for a weekend during July and has already found a place to live. And his first impressions of River City were all good.
"I had never been there before, but I've got some real positive thoughts about it now," he said. "It's almost like the feeling I had before I went to my first NHL camp and how excited I was after getting drafted. Going to Winnipeg... a new city, a new organization and the fan support... I'm really looking forward to that first practice.
"I was talking to some of the guys when this whole thing (the transfer of the franchise from Atlanta) was going on and everybody was pretty pumped up. I think having hockey back in Winnipeg, back in a Canadian market and seeing season tickets go so quickly... it's just going to be so exciting."
Kane said it's that playing environment which is most appealing to those who played in Atlanta amid all the ownership uncertainty. And as for the trade in climates and the suggestion some players won't want to move here, Kane offered up this:
"Any time you have you stability and some consistency in the organization -- which we obviously have with the new ownership and management -- it builds a more positive atmosphere that can lead to less distractions.
"I'm not one of those guys who will complain about the weather or what city I'm playing in. For me it's all about hockey and going to the rink in November and December, January and February when it's cold out and there's snow on the ground... that's hockey. That's what I get excited about.
"I want to play in front of fans who care about the team and are always there to support you. I can't wait for that. They have it here in Vancouver and I experienced it in junior here. Those are some of my best memories in hockey, playing for the Giants. And in Atlanta we did have fans who supported us. But coming to a Canadian market is just a great opportunity for myself and my teammates."