A year after Patrick Kane fired a shot into the goal in overtime to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup championship since 1961, the game-winning puck is still missing.
The rubber disc hasn't been found since it was dug out of the net while the Blackhawks celebrated their victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at the other end of the ice. An auction house says the collectible is worth six figures, at least, and a Chicago sports collector is offering a $50,000 reward for its return.
Images from the game showed veteran linesman Steve Miller looking at the puck in the moments after Kane's goal, but he has denied that he touched it.
However, the Tribune last week located a series of photos by a staff photographer that clearly show Miller picking up the puck with his right hand, shifting it to his left and skating away.
When the Tribune presented the pictures to Miller in Boston, where he is officiating the Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and the Canucks, Miller he said he didn't remember picking up the puck and doesn't know where it is.
"I pick up a thousand pucks a year," Miller told the Tribune. "You can ask me what I did with a puck 10 minutes ago. I can't remember every single thing I do with a puck."
In the mystery of the missing puck, the photos provide a clue — but they haven't solved the case.
Gary Meagher, the NHL's senior vice president for communications, said the league spoke with Miller about the incident several months ago and stands by the linesman's account.
"He didn't remember getting the puck," Meagher said in Boston. "We sat with him. We met with him. I've talked to him numerous times. Other league officials have talked to him.
"We all wish we knew where the puck was."
The Hawks do too.
"I would certainly like to see the Blackhawks be in possession of that," team President John McDonough told the Tribune. "If ... someone would deliver it to the Blackhawks, it would be very meaningful."
Bill Hay, a member of the Hawks' 1961 Stanley Cup team, said the puck belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame, of which he is chairman and CEO. "Those pucks should go on display and not on eBay for someone to make money off of," Hay said. "It's important to the Hall of Fame and to the public."
The NHL's officiating handbook does not address what is to happen to pucks once games end, and no rule prohibits a hockey official from taking one. Miller said there were several things he may have done with the puck — throw it in a bucket with others, for example. But he told the Tribune he can't recall.
"Pucks don't mean anything to me." Miller said. "So why would that puck mean anything to me?"
Andy Van Hellemond, a Hall of Fame referee living in Canada, said it is not uncommon for referees to snag pucks and that he's got "quite a few" in his collection, including ones shot by Mario Lemieux and Johnny Bucyk. The motivation, according to Van Hellemond: If a player reaches 500 goals in a career, wouldn't it be "neat" to have the milestone puck?
And what of Miller, the last person seen with the puck from Kane's goal?
"He's the only one who can unconfuse you," Van Hellemond said.
Miller, 38, has been an NHL linesman since 2000 and began working playoff games his second season. He lives with his family in a small Ontario city where he played junior hockey for the Stratford Cullitons.
Tribune photos provide clue in case of missing Blackhawks Stanley Cup puck
Series-clinching collectible was in hands of linesman then — now, who knows?
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