Their differences are striking, so much so that it makes you wonder how Patrick Kane
and Jonathan Toews
have developed their amazing chemistry.
Toews wears the maple leaf on his chest in international play. Kane dons the red, white and blue. Toews is a fearless leader who earned the nickname "Mr. Serious" from teammates. Kane is a glitzy acrobat on the ice who owns a smile that can light up a room.
Toews grew up in Winnipeg, playing shinny on an outdoor rink his dad created for him. Kane grew up in Buffalo, playing inside the local rinks.
Toews stands a healthy 6-foot-2. Kane is a diminutive 5-10.
Despite the differences, they are the two most important elements in the ongoing rebirth of hockey in Chicago, and they are strikingly different. But according to Kane and Toews, their differences make them one of the NHL's greatest singular sensations.
"It's almost like we're one person," Kane told NHL.com. "It's Kane and Toews, or Toews and Kane."
And neither name tops this ticket.
They're side by side, because Kane and Toews (or Toews and Kane if you prefer) believe that by embracing their relationship and the expectations that come with being who they are, the odds for an extraordinary run in Chicago dramatically increase.
"We're different players and we're different people, but we started to understand each other and how to deal with each other as last season went on," Toews told NHL.com. "For guys like us, who spend so much time together, we have to get along to play well together. We're off on the right foot, that's for sure."
As Kane puts it, they didn't really have a choice but to become friends.
"We were roommates in prospect camp, roommates in rookie camp, and roommates on the road," Kane said. "Everything we did was basically together."
For good reason, of course.
Before they played together, Chicago's executive staff, led by Chairman Rocky Wirtz, President John McDonough and GM Dale Tallon, sent the message to Kane and Toews that the future of the Hawks was now and they were holding the map.
To sell the game to a new fanbase in Chicago, these good-looking youngsters had to thrive, and they had to do it together. They quickly became one of the League's most intriguing success stories.
Kane won the Calder Memorial Trophy after leading all rookies with 72 points on 21 goals and 51 assists. Toews, who was one of the three finalists for Calder Trophy, showed enough of his array of leadership qualities to be named the 34th captain in Hawks history this summer. He's the third youngest captain in NHL history.
"Obviously it's a huge compliment for me," said Toews, who finished last season with 24 goals and 30 assists in 64 games. "It's the best compliment I can receive."
Now Year Two is upon them and life isn't going to be any easier. The rest of the NHL knows how great of a threat they can be, but there are 82 game tapes of Kane, 64 of which include Toews, for scouts and coaches to study.
They'll be looking for weaknesses, holes if you will. While the folks in the NHL marketing and public relations departments will be looking to expand the aura surrounding Kane and Toews, the rest of the League will be looking to pop the bubble that currently encases them.
"Teams will be out to get us," Kane said. "They'll be watching us, but at the same time we now know how to play the NHL game, too."
Except Season 2 brings a new set of challenges even Kane and Toews can't be prepared for, such as how to attack raised expectations.
Neither Kane nor Toews were guaranteed anything coming out of training camp last season. Now they're guaranteed a spot on the top line and top power-play unit.
Pundits around the NHL are guaranteeing the Blackhawks a spot in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a place they haven't been since 2002, a place Kane and Toews have never been.
We're different players and we're different people, but we started to understand each other and how to deal with each other as last season went on. - Jonathan Toews
It's a lot to handle all at once.
"You kind of have to get a grip sometimes, or get a hold of yourself because I think there is something as overconfidence," Toews said. "You can't just show up and cakewalk. That's not going to be the case and we don't have that attitude at all.
"The fans and everyone in Chicago has those expectations, and I know they're going to get impatient if we don't meet those expectations. We can't panic. We have to keep it even. We have to set goals for ourselves and we know we're capable of being at the top of our conference. There are going to be issues and rumors going on, but we have to stay tight as a team and keep it in the locker room, be together. That's all that matters."
While the task of bringing together one of the most improved NHL teams -- at least on paper -- falls to Toews, a 20-year-old captain just two years removed from playing college hockey in North Dakota, at least he won't go it alone.
There are veterans on the team, namely Martin Havlat, Robert Lang, Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith, who can provide their own form of leadership.
And, of course, Toews has his other half.
Toews doesn't need Kane to become a complete NHL player, and vice-versa, but for the Blackhawks to reach new heights in their stunning turnaround from obscurity, the sum of these two has to be better than the parts.
In essence, they have to remain a singular sensation.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer