By Paul M. Banks
For Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks, a nice, quietly productive training camp was exactly what the doctor ordered. After an arrest hurt his image, but left his personal freedom and financial bottom line pretty much unscathed, the focus surrounding Kane is back on hockey. Which is exactly the way he, and his organization, like it. Kaner’s Coach, Joel Quenneville, has talked quite a bit about the young wing’s improved speed and added size. I recently asked the star player himself about it. “I do feel faster, I feel like this is the hardest I’ve ever worked this past summer, so hopefully it will pay off on the ice,” he responded.
Some of that extra work came in a very high-profile setting, as Kane took to the ice for Team USA Orientation Camp. Kane talked about the extra work he got in at Seven Bridges Ice Arena with Team USA.
“It was not really a tryout camp, it was more to get to know everyone, and we where on the ice everyday, for about an hour. Just regular drills, nothing too special, it was good to be there and meet everyone. I knew about 10 guys coming in, and left knowing everyone, so it’s a good feeling. It’s crazy to think, because it’s such a high level that we’re going to be playing at, but we won’t be able to get any practice in before our first game, but that’s how it is- with the Olympics right around the corner. And if I’m a part of that team I’ll be grateful.”
Giant posters of Kane were prominently displayed at that camp, which was so attractive to fans that hundreds of potential spectators were turned away. Kane is clearly becoming the face of Team USA hockey much like he’s the face of the Hawks franchise. He’s also the image featured on EA Sports “NHL ’10,” and he’s been spent countless hours playing the video game this fall.
“Too much lately, I’ve been throwing away my afternoon nap to play the video game. But it’s worth it, it’s fun, it keeps me low-key and keeps me in the house, so I enjoy it,” he said in response to my question about it.
Kane expectedly spent much of his training camp at or near the top of the Blackhawks’ practice session score sheets. Fellow superstar Jonathan Toews was right there with him in all the major categories. So I asked Coach Joel Quenneville what the focus is for the headliners –the guys assured of a front line spot- in preseason.
“We want them to be competitive and make sure their games are at high levels, get them ready for the season. We want to make sure they don’t come and just use training camp to just be here. The way the lines ended up during the playoff run at the end of last year, everyone got to play in different situations with a lot of different guys…they’re two special players (Kane and Toews) that we’re going to need to be a big part of this team, but as a coach you welcome the options that you do have with those two guys,” Quenneville responded.
If Kaner is looking for a song to encapsulate his upcoming season, perhaps its 2pac’s “All Eyes on Me.” No player in the Olympics or the NHL will have the spotlight shined as bright upon him this winter. And when the Hawks take to the road, opposing fans will heckle him. Of course, on the other hand, a lot of people in this country have very short term memories, so if we see a couple “Hatrick Kane” nights early in the season, pretty much everyone will forget what happened in Buffalo on August 9th.
Kane and his teammates finished the preseason with a 2-3-1 record, and open the 82nd NHL regular season against the Florida Panthers in Helsinki, Finland as part of NHL Premiere 2009 on Friday, October 2 at 11:00 A.M. (CT). The teams face off again in Helsinki on Saturday, October 3 at 11:00 A.M. (CT) before the Blackhawks make their 2009-10 debut in North America at the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, October 8th.
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