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Patrick Kane: More to Prove

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

The following feature appeared in the February 2013 issue of Blackhawks Magazine. Pick up the newest issue of the magazine at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at (800) GO-HAWKS.

Patrick Kane is in his sixth season with the Blackhawks, so it seems as if he has been around forever. But the electric forward is only 24. He can do it all, and has done a lot, but Kane says he won't be satisfied until he does more.

Welcome back, better late than never. Does it feel like nothing has changed?

Patrick Kane: You heard and read stuff about how people might be upset after the lockout. Then you saw that crowd we had for our opening night at the United Center. They were loud and really into it. Can’t say any of us were surprised, but we appreciate it. Chicago fans are the real deal. We realize if there are no fans, there’s no National Hockey League. And we’ve got the best fans.

Ken Hitchcock, coach of the St. Louis Blues, volunteered before opening night on Jan. 22 that the United Center is THE building to visit, and Chicago is the IT city.

Yeah, those of us who play here are probably a little bit spoiled. When we talk to other guys in the league, they’re always asking questions. "What’s it like playing in Chicago?" You tell them the truth. The fans are amazing, and the organization treats us unbelievably well. Things you don’t even see, we notice. They really take care of us. Nobody who plays for the Blackhawks wants to go anywhere else. I know I don’t want to [go elsewhere].

You had to for a brief time before the regular season started. What was Switzerland like?

It was a good experience. Interesting. I thought I would only be over there a couple weeks, so I just packed a small suitcase. A lot of rotating clothes, if you know what I mean. There was one washer and dryer where I was staying, but my mom, Donna, was with me for a while, which helped.

Did you stay over there the whole time?

No, I came back twice. I played 20 games with Biel, and we were near Davos, the big ski resort. It’s a beautiful country. I stayed in shape by skating, and I was over there for Christmas with my girlfriend. That was nice, but when we got word that everything was settled, we were on the first flight back to Chicago.

And in the home opener at the United Center, you scored on a three-on-none. Is that three times easier than a penalty shot?

Actually, it’s harder. You have options, and you don’t want to be selfish. In Switzerland, [Boston's] Tyler Seguin and I had two two-on-nones and didn’t score on either.

Does it seem like a long time ago that you were living with Stan Bowman, who is now vice president/general manager of the Blackhawks?

It does. I was a rookie, 18, and a little overwhelmed. I’m from Buffalo, I played in small towns like London, Ontario, and I see Chicago… the traffic, the people. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’

Did Stan make you earn your keep? Take out the garbage? Wash the dishes?

Nah, he and his wife, Sue, were pretty easy on me. She cooked dinner, we played with their kids, and watched a lot of hockey on TV. If Stan’s dad, Scotty, was there, watching games with him was an education.

There was a time when Blackhawks players could walk down Michigan Avenue without being recognized. No more.

No. After we won the Stanley Cup in 2010, it was like we were rock stars. We don’t have much privacy, but again, the fans here are so nice and respectful, it’s not a problem. And when someone comes up to you in a restaurant and says, ‘My kid is a big fan, he really loves you,’ that never gets old.

The theory is that, with the speed and depth on your roster, the Blackhawks are well-positioned for the short, compressed season. Agree?

I do. Plus, we all know each other. It’s not like we went to training camp and had to make a lot of introductions. We’ve got to be careful, though. New Jersey started slowly during the short season in 1995 and won the Stanley Cup. But we’ve got a great group. Great franchise, coaching staff, leadership, talent.

What about the lack of practice time with 48 games in 99 days?

I don’t think that will bother us. We’ve got a bunch of gamers on this team who love to play. The schedule might affect us if other teams weren’t going through the same thing. Plus, we feel like we’ve underachieved the last couple seasons. I think we went into this season with a chip on our shoulder.

Yourself included?

Absolutely. I am my biggest critic. I’ve done some good things with the Blackhawks, but I think I can do more. I know I can do more. There are a lot of areas where I could improve, and I am really focused on getting better — not only for myself, but for my teammates, the organization, the fans, my family and friends. I was a first draft pick. I don’t want to let Chicago down. It’s not only goals and assists, either. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I want to see how good I can be. I still have things to prove. I have high expectations for myself.

Do people sometimes forget you are only 24?

Maybe. I have been around for quite a while. But it’s a process. After we won the Cup, you kind of feel invincible. Then you get brought down to earth. I’m comfortable here, I love it here, but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. You win a Cup, you want to win another. We all feel that way.

As a veteran, has your enjoyment of the game changed? Is it a job now?

It’s a job I love, same as I loved it when I was a kid, going to the rink, skating seven days a week, going to watch the Sabres play in Buffalo. I love handling the puck, seeing an opening, passing it or going for the net. My dad gets excited when I score a goal. I tell him, ‘I wish you could feel it for yourself.’ There is no greater feeling than being out on that ice.

You’ve developed a friendship with Bobby Hull, correct?

Oh, he’s great. I’ve seen clips of him playing, winding up and skating in on goalies with the big slap shot. Then you see him around the rink and he talks to you like a buddy. It’s awesome. People ask me what Bobby is like. I tell them he’s hilarious and friendly and a terrific storyteller. I could talk to him for hours. Or listen to him for hours. And the best part is, after all the things he’s done, a Hall of Famer, he’s a fan of ours; we’re not just fans of his.

Does it register with the current players when the Blackhawks ambassadors are in the United Center or around the team?

Our fans are behind us all the way, and we feel it. We feed off them. The energy in the United Center on game nights is unbelievable. - Patrick Kane

It does. Denis Savard, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito, Bobby... You see what they mean to the city and the organization. There can’t be that many fans at our games who saw them play; we have so many young fans. But when they flash the shot of them in their suite during a time out, the place goes crazy. And we’re watching from the bench. Pretty amazing. You see how they interact with fans and you want to be like that. Those guys, they’re legends.

Do we make too much of the bond that exists among players and fans?

Not here. Not in Chicago with our fans. They’re behind us all the way, and we feel it. We feed off them. The energy in the United Center on game nights is unbelievable.

You love Chicago and Chicago loves you. Do you ever come to the city in the summer?

Oh, yeah. Not only for the Convention in July, but to work with our conditioning coach, Paul Goodman. What an incredible place it is in the summer. There’s so much to do, restaurants and the Cubs and the boats out there on the lake. Like I said, I don’t ever want to leave. Chicago was almost too big for me when I was 18. But Chicago has taken good care of me.

Center or right wing?

I’ve played right wing more than any other place, naturally, and I like it there. I’m probably better there. But I can play center, and if they need me to play center, I’ll play center.

How have you changed physically since your 2007-08 rookie season?

When I first started, I was probably 165 pounds. I’ve gotten a little bit bigger, but I don’t want to get too big from lifting weights and all that. I don’t want it to affect my quickness. My best weight, I think, is right about 180, which is where I am now.

And that 15 pounds you’ve added is all muscle?

Oh, yeah. All muscle. Like a rock.

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