HOWELL, N.J. -- It may be the middle of August, and he may be wearing a cast that runs from his left fingers up past his elbow, but there's always a competition going on between Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Kane spent Thursday at a youth hockey camp run by Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland at the Howell Ice World Family Ice Arena. He went on the ice with the youngsters, and also posed for pictures with the kids, who wore all manner of jerseys.
A number of them were sporting Blackhawks No. 88 jerseys, but there was one youngster decked out in a jersey that stuck out a bit -- a Blackhawks No. 19 with Toews' name on the back.
"I told him I'm not going to take a picture with him because he had a Toews jersey on him," Kane told NHL.com jokingly. "He looked at me like I was nuts."
The youngster in question, 9-year-old Patrick White of Summit, N.J., did get his picture taken with Kane, and later said Kane -- not Toews -- was his favorite player.
That brought a smile to Kane's face.
"I think there were a couple Kane jerseys," said Kane. "Nice to see a little more than Toews jerseys. … We usually joke about that stuff."
When Kane went on the ice with the kids, he was a bit more serious. He skated around with a stick, but couldn't do much more. He had surgery to repair a broken bone in his left wrist on July 19, and he's nearing the halfway point of the expected six-week recovery time.
"It's never fun to be walking around in a cast, especially since I'm going to have it on for six weeks," he said. "I'm two weeks down and a couple days. I keep counting the days to get this thing off."
Kane said he initially felt pain in the wrist during a game against the Detroit Red Wings on April 8. When X-rays showed no fractures, he did what he could to get past the pain and play in the Blackhawks' first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, where he had 6 points in seven games.
"We actually got an X-ray at the end of the season and nothing showed up," said Kane. "Probably from working out and training, different things, (I) aggravated it and made things a little worse.
He returned to Chicago for another check-up, which is when the fracture was found.
"It was a fracture of my scaphoid bone in my wrist," said Kane. "There's no blood flow to that part of the wrist so it can't heal itself, so I had to get surgery done."
It was the first injury of Kane's career that required surgery to fix, but he said the doctors assured him the procedure was successful, and that the timing of it couldn't have been better. Kane said he's certain he'll be 100-percent when training camp opens next month.
"I'm happy we caught it now," he said. "I'm glad I went back to Chicago and got it checked out and hopefully get it fixed and be ready for the start of the season."
He said the surgery has changed his workout plans, but said he's doing his best to stay in shape.
"I've been skating, but not with a stick or anything," he said. "I'll have a stick in my hand, but no pucks. I'm working out, I'm still doing a lot of conditioning, lot of leg work. You have the odd exercise here and there with your right arm, which is good to keep in shape. I'm trying to stay in shape. I felt really good at the time I had the surgery. I felt like I was on my way to putting my body in really good shape for the season, so it's tough when you hear that news, it sets you back a bit. I'm still trying to get there."
Kane said this summer is far different than last summer, when his season lasted into the middle of June and included a summer-long celebration with the Stanley Cup. However, it also included a roster makeover that saw about a third of the players he shared the Cup experience with end up on different teams. While there were changes this summer, Kane said he's very happy with how the roster currently looks.
"(In 2010) you think you have a great team put together, a team that could keep winning championships, and then it's out the door within a couple weeks," he said. "This year, I think some of the things that needed to be addressed where you're trying to improve your team from last year rather than change it, I think we did that. We've added some players that are tougher, players that can helps us more at a depth positions that can play in different positions, in different roles. We've still got our team, have a lot of core guys there. (Patrick) Sharp, he re-signed, you've got Taser (Toews), (Marian) Hossa, (Brent) Seabrook, (Duncan) Keith, a lot of those guys are back and they're guys you want back. There's a couple changes, but overall, with the core players we have and the changes we've made, we should be a pretty good team.
"I'm excited for the season, excited for where our team's at. A lot of good moves by the Hawks, getting our team where we need to be, adding a lot of maturity, experience, toughness -- which we probably lacked last year. I think we're going to be pretty good. I think we're going to have another chance to win it again."
Helping get to that point would require Kane staying healthy. While his injury kept him from shooting pucks with the kids -- ironically, the theme of the week-long camp is "Sniper Week" -- Kane enjoyed his time meeting and working with the kids.
"Havi asked me to do this a while ago and I promised him I would," said Kane. "And even with the wrist surgery, I decided to come down."
Kane said the day-long experience took him back to his youth hockey days in Buffalo.
"I remember a couple Sabres coming in to camp when I was younger," he said. "I remember it was Kevyn Adams and a guy named Norm Milley. It was just nice to see them. We were really happy as kids to see players that made it. I think it brings you back."
Haviland, a New Jersey native whose brother, George, is a co-owner of the Howell rink, said he could see the kids were dazzled by Kane's presence.
"Just to meet him in their environment, in their youth rink in New Jersey, is something special," Haviland told NHL.com. "To actually have him on the ice and he's going to sit and maybe give them some pointers … there's not many guys better that you can get some pointers from."
After skating with the kids, who ranged in age from 10 to 12, Kane said he was impressed by the talent level.
"Havi's kids are pretty good, pretty talented, got some good shots," said Kane. "There's a couple other good kids out there. … I think overall, and I've seen it throughout my career, as you get older and watch the younger kids, it seems like the talent level gets better and better, so that's cool to see."
After practice Kane posed for photos and signed countless jerseys, pucks, pictures and even two cell phones, and never once stopped smiling.
"Just be here for the kids, that's the most important thing," he said. "They're the most important fans because they're going to keep playing and keep growing, probably be part of our League someday. That's nice to see."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK