Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2014-15 NHL season, USA Hockey Magazine will periodically highlight American-born players through various Q&A segments. In our most recent discussion we talk Chicago Blackhawks superstar forward Patrick Kane.
Since bursting onto the NHL scene Patrick Kane has lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He earned the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year in 2008 and scored the overtime winner in 2010 to lift the Blackhawks to the organization’s first Stanley Cup in 49 years. In 2013 he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP as he helped bring the Cup back to Chicago for the second time in three years. This season Kane was leading the league in scoring before suffering a broken left clavicle in a game against Florida on Feb. 24. The Blackhawks are hoping the talented 26-year-old can return in time for another run at the Cup.
Besides hockey, what other sports (if any) did you participate in when you were in grade school/middle school?
I played basketball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball for a little bit, but my big sport beside hockey was probably basketball.
As a 14-year-old, you played for Honeybaked, a AAA program based in Southeastern Michigan. You moved in with former NHL player, Pat Verbeek, for a couple seasons. What was that experience like living with an NHLer? Are there any hockey/life lessons Pat passed along to you during that time period?
That was awesome. It was one of the main reasons I went to Detroit, knowing I was going to live with a former NHL player who scored 500 goals. He is small in stature like I was at that time, so I felt I could learn a lot from him. One thing I learned from him is that he was fearless. He was one of those guys who really wanted to make sure I was doing my best every shift.
What is your most vivid memory as a youngster playing hockey? Maybe a memorable goal? A tournament you won?
I made some good friends over the years playing. One of my best friends still to this day is a goalie I played with growing up since I was 7 years old, his name is Brett Bennett. I just remember if I look back on my childhood when we played, we had a lot of good tournaments together. It seemed like one of us always won the MVP. If we won a championship, one of us would lead us to that championship. It was always fun playing with him. It turned into a great friendship and he’s still one of my best friends today.
You played for the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons (2004-06). How do you think your game developed in those two years before you headed to play Junior hockey?
It was huge. I’m so happy I got the opportunity to go there. The program really focuses on improving your body, you get a lot of practice time and you really learn how to play the game and how to treat yourself, too. I was a really skinny kid going in at 15 years old. To stay there for two years and work out four or five days a week and practice a lot and play a lot of games, it was great for me.
Which one or two players did you look up to in the NHL when you were a young kid? Anyone in particular you tried to model your game after?
Growing up in Buffalo, I was definitely a big Pat Lafontaine fan. Joe Sakic was definitely one of my favorite players. I liked watching the Avalanche, so he and Peter Forsberg were some of the players I really watched. I watched Forsberg a little bit more because his style was similar to mine, maybe with a little more physical attitude. He was so skilled and made so many great plays and passes that I really loved watching him.
How much have small area games been incorporated into your practices at both the Junior and professional level? What types of skills have you taken away from those situations?
It’s very important to learn how to play in tight areas. We still do drills to this day that are tight area games where it’s 2-on-2, 3-on-3 down low, maybe 1-on-1 in the corners. They teach you how to battle and how to maneuver in tight space.
You played in the 2010 Olympics (Vancouver) and 2014 Olympics (Sochi, Russia) for the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team. How would you describe those experiences and the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue? How did those Olympic Games differ for you as a player?
It’s amazing. I wish we could do it every year. It’s unbelievable to play in the Olympics. I’m really looking forward to a chance to play in the next one. Any time you’re representing your country at the Olympics, you know how big it is. You’ve got 300 million people at your back, rooting and cheering for you. It’s not just Chicago vs. Detroit, or Chicago vs. St. Louis, where it’s just two cities. Instead, all of the cities in the United States are rooting for you, so it’s amazing.
What advice can you give a young 10-year-old kid playing youth hockey who aspires to play junior, college or even professional hockey?
Stay in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen in the future. You’ve got a lot of time for that, so just have fun, work hard and see where it goes.