Pleasantly Uneventful Preseason for Patrick Kane

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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.patrick-kane-nhl10

“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.

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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.

Patrick Kane and Company Head to Europe

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By Paul M. Banks

It’s known as the “Grand Tour,” a rite of passage for college kids. Upon completion of college, or perhaps during the summer in-between, college students often go sightseeing in continental Europe. Patrick Kane, and many of his Chicago Blackhawks teammates are college age or younger. Since they find themselves playing in the NHL instead of going away to school, they can consider this week’s trip to Switzerland and Finland, their Grand Tour.

On Monday afternoon, the Blackhawks played the first of two European exhibition contests at Zurich’s Hallenstadion Arena against HC Davos.  Chicago won Monday’s contest 9-2; including two goals from star left-wing Patrick Kane, who I had an exclusive with back in Chicago, just before the team flew across the pond.

“It will be cool. Hopefully, we can get some Blackhawks fans over there that can cheer us on pretty good. From watching soccer games on TV and being in world championships things like that- those European crowds can get pretty crazy with waving the flags, the face-paint and things like that. I’m sure we’ll enjoy it,” he said.

I also asked him about the power play, which has struggled mightily in exhibition matches. “Once we get out there on the power play, we pretty much know what to do. We’ve been with each other for a couple years here, so hopefully we get some practice in the exhibition and we work on it there,” Kane said.

The Blackhawks will join the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers as National Hockey League teams selected to participate in “NHL Premiere,” launching the 2009-10 regular season. The Blackhawks and Panthers will play “home-and-home” games at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, on Fri., Oct. 2 and Sat., Oct. 3. This will be the Blackhawks’ first-ever regular-season game in Europe, but not Kane’s first trip to the old continent.

“I’ve been there a couple times. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do that, but we’re excited about it and getting the season started…I’ve been to Germany, Russia, I haven’t been to Switzerland so that will be a goal for me. Finland, it can be pretty dark when you’re there in the winter, but luckily we’re going there a little bit earlier, so that’s pretty nice,” Kane said.

The trip should also help build chemistry within a team that had an off-season filled with adversity. “Going overseas for a couple weeks really helps us bond, as we really get to hang out with each other. Usually, when we’re at the rink we hang out, but then we go home and do our own thing and come back the next day.  But there, we’ll probably be together 24-7,” Kane said.

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