Local hockey coaches like Sylvain Turcotte cite a "Blackhawks effect" the championship hockey team has brought to their organizations in recent years.
More kids than ever are hitting the ice, many of them wearing Blackhawks jerseys to practice or adopting number 88, an ode to star winger Patrick Kane, 26.
The Glenview Ice Rink where Sylvain conducted a coaching clinic on Friday was a case in point -- with a giant poster of Kane affixed to its wall, a sort of silent presence looking over the middle school-age skaters who wove between rows of cones before shooting pucks into nets.
So the news that Hamburg, New York, police are investigating what occurred at Kane's upstate New York residence last week has created a delicate situation for suburban parents and coaches, even though the star hockey player hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing.
"He's a role model. He's an idol. The kids don't want to believe it," said Turcotte, a Buffalo Grove resident who's coached travel and park district hockey in Glenview for the past 28 years.
Meanwhile, parents and coaches are hesitant to talk about the news reports, particularly as details are lacking in the case with potential to severely damage the reputation of Kane, who last year signed an 8-year, $84 million contract extension with the Blackhawks.
The Buffalo News on Thursday reported sources said a woman has alleged Kane sexually assaulted her at his home.
"It's uncomfortable because no matter what he says, Kane is a role model," Turcotte said. "And you know, fortunately, over the last four or five years he's done a really good job of maturing."
Jim Christopher, a father of three, said one of his first thoughts upon hearing the news was what to say to his three children. His two boys and daughter, ages 7 to 12, have all played hockey, and the family has Blackhawks season tickets.
"How do I tell them their hero may have done this?" he asked. While he said he's waiting for more facts to come out, Christopher said he and his wife, Kari, are prepping to have "a talk" with the kids if the situation worsens for Kane.
"We idolize these sports heroes but they're real people," he said. "That would be the number one thing, to tell them sports takes a back seat to personal actions, and how people conduct themselves. I can't walk into the United Center and be more concerned about winning Hawks games than that."
At the moment, Turcotte said, it seems more parents than kids talking about the investigation.
"It's more the parents. They really seem to be sheltering their kids from it or discuss it at home and tell them not to talk about it," he said. If more details come out, "then, obviously, you'd have to address it with the kids," he said. "But until we all know, there's no sense in speculation."