Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 12/11/07 at 06:33 PM ET
Today’s NHL teleconference call was with Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.
Patrick leads Chicago and all National Hockey League rookies in scoring with 28 points on 7 goals and 21 assists, playing in each of the Blackhawks 29 games so far this season. In some ways, his journey to the NHL will come full circle this Saturday when he will play his first professional game in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, when the Blackhawks visit the Sabres at the HSBC Arena.
Q. Are you even a little surprised how well things have gone for you this year?
PATRICK KANE: You know, I think coming into the season, probably the biggest thing for me was to try to make the team. Once that kind of happened, things started coming in. I seemed to get a little more ice team here and there, some more opportunities to play with better players and I had a good start. Before you know it, we’re playing—myself and Jonathan, we’re playing against the top checking lines. I guess you don’t expect things to happen that quick.
But at the same time I think we’re going through a little slump right now. Got to get going and get back to where we were about a month ago.
Q. Can you compare your confidence level, I’m sure it will be greater in future seasons, but compare it from the beginning of the year to where you are now? When you step on the ice, how confident do you feel?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I think you get a little bit more comfortable. Even from like pre-season to the regular season, pre-season I kind of felt lost out there. You know, the regular season rolled around, it’s supposed to be tougher, and you feel just a little bit more confident. I think the biggest thing for me is just go out there and play the game that got me here and I should be okay.
Q. Everybody around the league is noticing the injection of the excitement in Chicago. It’s been a market that has lacked some of that in past years. Do you and Jonathan, some of the other young guys, have you embraced that? Are you aware of the history, to try to bring Chicago back to where it once was?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, it’s funny. I mean, you know, coming into this season, there was talk about how there wasn’t really much buzz around the Blackhawks, the attendance wasn’t very good, all of that. The first game we’re there, it sold out. I think things are starting to turn around. Hopefully we can turn a buzz into a real contender team. If I’m a piece of that puzzle that’s great. I’ll be happy to do whatever I can to help the team and the organization.
Q. As a rookie, each first step that you see is sort of a new experience. Can you tell us what your emotions may be like this Saturday when you come back to play the Sabres for the very first time in your hometown in Buffalo.
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, well, I mean, Buffalo is pretty much where my life is. It’s where my family is. It’s where my life started. It’s where I started playing hockey. It’s where I go back to in the summer and where all my friends are and stuff, too. It’s going to be awesome. I’m not really sure what to expect right now, but I’m sure it will be a lot of fun for me.
Q. Tickets aren’t very easy to come by. Have you been approached by a lot of family to try and squeeze as many as you can in on Saturday?
PATRICK KANE: You know what, they’ve been pretty good about it. I think I only have to get about 15 to 20 tickets for the game. That should be good. I think with a lot of my friends, they went out and bought the tickets early. They didn’t really know I could get tickets. I guess that was good, too. Either way, if I have to buy some tickets for them, I’ll definitely do it just so they can be a part of it.
Q. Have you been doing anything to try to avoid falling into a slump personally or hitting a wall like young players often do?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, think I we’re kind of going through that right now. It’s been a little bit since I’ve been comfortable with my game. But I think the biggest thing, you know, talking with the coaches, the GM and everything, I think the biggest thing is probably keep working hard in practice and keep working hard and don’t get down on yourself because, you know, it’s a tough league. It’s the best league in the world and you’re going to go through these things.
As long as you’re working hard, doing the right things, things should turn up once again.
Q. Have you at any point during the season had trouble pacing yourself? You don’t want to be too excited and working too hard at times.
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, it’s funny, the first game, I remember I went out for my first rift. I was so excited. It’s my first shift in the NHL. You know, if I was just a little bit more calm, I probably would have had a goal because the puck, it was like up in the air, but I was so excited I wasn’t like really paying attention. But if I was just like, you know, playing my normal game, normal confidence, it probably would have just landed right on my stick and I would have had an open net. Sure enough, I missed the shot. You know, it’s fun. It’s the NHL. You know, I’m 19 years old. I’m playing with another 19-year-old in Toews. We’re just young kids and we don’t really know any better. We just want to go out there, have fun, play the game, do whatever we can to help the team win.
Q. How do you feel about being considered somewhat the new face of USA hockey, taking over from Jeremy Roenick, whose shoes you’re expected to fill in Chicago? What are you thoughts about getting the chance to represent your country in the next Olympics?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t thought too far ahead. But that would be unbelievable, to play in the Olympics one day, put on the USA sweater. That would be awesome. But as far as the face of USA hockey, I think you can’t really just look at me. There’s so many other good young players out there. Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Kessel. Even Van Riemsdyk, he’s coming up. I think there are so many players 245 are coming out of that USA player in Ann Arbor. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a few more coming along the way.
Q. The knock against you has always been your lack of size. How much of an advantage was it for you to have a coach like Denny Savard, who was also a star even though people saw him as being too small. How much of an advantage has that been for you to have a coach that could see past your lack of stature?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I think especially with Savy, he came in the league as a young player, too. He’s not overly a big player. He doesn’t have that great size. I think it definitely helps. I mean, I think we can relate to each other, obviously the style of game that we both play. You know, I think people mention my size, but if I was 6’2”, 220 pounds, maybe I wouldn’t be the same player I am today. I’m just thankful for everything I’ve gotten. Obviously the opportunity with Savy has helped, too.
Q. You were pretty young when he retired. Do you remember seeing him play, seen footage of him in action?
PATRICK KANE: You know, I don’t think I remember watching him a lot. I’ve obviously seen probably all of his highlight goals. I mean, he was a pretty special player. Actually one day this year he called me into his office to watch all of his highlights. That was pretty funny.
He’s a good guy, too. His door is always open for me - for anyone on the team for that matter. I think it’s helping a lot of the kids.
Q. You and Jonathan still have a good-natured rivalry over the World Junior, what happened in the shootout?
PATRICK KANE: You know, if it does come up, it’s usually a joke about it. He went 3 for 3, I went 0 for 2. I think we’ve gotten past that and kind of joke about some other things now, maybe like sometimes Rookie of the Year or something like that. But, you know, with the competition, I think it’s more of a fun competition for both of us and it’s going to make us both better.
Q. Who is the official family ticket broker right now for this game? Are your parents doing it?
PATRICK KANE: My family, they’ve been pretty good. Pretty much all of my relatives have gotten either like a box or something, a bunch of seats. I really haven’t had to worry about it too much. They didn’t even put anything on me really. I’m just getting tickets for my friends.
Q. When you look at coming into Chicago as a highly touted rookie, how much easier has your adjustment been made by the fact you’re not the sole focus? It’s kind of been the Patrick and Jonathan show.
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, it’s cool. I mean, I know I’m grateful coming in at a young age with him. You know, we can relate to each other with on-ice things, and off-ice things, as well. We’re usually with each other anyway.
I think it’s been good for both of us. I mean, he’s obviously a great player and he’s fun to play with and he’s a good kid, too. I think we both learn from each other. It’s definitely nice to have him here with me.
Q. What one or two pearls of wisdom can you say you’ve gleaned if the time with Kevyn Adams so far?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, he’s been great. I roomed with him in training camp. It’s unfortunate he got injured because he was having a great season, too. He was doing his job unbelievable. His role on the team was unbelievable. He was unbelievable in the room. Just a great leader. It’s fun seeing him out on the rink again because he just brings joy to the rink. He’s a great leader and a great guy, too.
Q. How old were you when you left Buffalo as an amateur player and what the impetus for the decision?
PATRICK KANE: I was 14 years old. I moved from Buffalo out to Detroit to play for Honey Baked. I guess the biggest reason I went there was they said if I played for the team, I could live with Pat Verbeek, who was 500 goal-scorer in the NHL, pretty similar to the size I was. I guess my parents and myself thought that was a really good opportunity for me.
Q. How would you compare the competition that you faced there with what your alternative choice would have been in this area?
PATRICK KANE: I probably would have played for the Buffalo Saints for another midget year. We thought it was time to move on. Detroit is close to the USA program out there. Try to get some exposure there. Hopefully they come out to a lot of your games. That’s what happened for me. I was fortunate enough to make the U.S. team the next year. It worked out.
Q. Your coach with the national development program said the key focus for that program is getting players exposed to bigger, stronger players. Do you think that’s a key aspect of development for young athletes?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I think so. But at the same time when I was a younger kid, playing in Buffalo, I made sure that I wasn’t playing at too high of a level where, you know, I couldn’t play my game out there. I guess I would rather stay at my level and make sure I dominated the play, kinda scored a lot of goals, made a lot of nice plays where I could develop my skills. I think as you get older to that age, you really have to push yourself and definitely get up to the higher ranks. We were 16 years old that first year and we were playing against 20-year-olds, which at that age it’s a big difference.
Yeah, it’s good. They preach on working out, preparing for games. I think it’s just a good program overall.
Q. How far away did you get up from HSBC Arena? Do you recall when you signed the beams that went into the place?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I signed the last piece of steel to go up in the HSBC Arena there. I live about 10 minutes away from the arena. The reason I did get to sign that piece of steel was my aunt, Bonnie Lockwood, she was a council woman. She decided she could take me out there and a couple of my other cousins. We just loved the Sabres at that age. I remember showing up with my blue Hasek jersey with the old uniform. I can’t remember what I signed on the steel. I think I might have just signed my name. I’m pretty sure it was next to Seymour Knox.
Q. You have a history with this building. Now you’re going to come and play there.
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, you know, there’s a lot of coincidences. One thing was my first—I scored in the shootout against Hasek. He was like the player I watched growing up on TV. I even had his jersey on. Another thing was when I scored my first NHL goal, it was against Colorado. Joe Sakic was like the guy for me when I was growing up. I remember that night, I was first star and he was second star. It’s funny how a lot of things have worked out. I know going back to Buffalo, that rink where I watched so many games, played mini sticks in the hallways, little things like, that I finally get to play on the ice after being there for so long.
Q. When you look back at last season in London, how did that compare you for what’s come along this season?
PATRICK KANE: In London I got a lot of ice time. There’s a lot of opportunity for me to succeed. I think the biggest thing in London was you get to play with great players. I got to play with Gagner and Kostsitsyn, last year. It really helped me get used to playing with good players so when I came up here, I was used to it. Another thing in London, there’s a lot of media attention. That definitely prepares you for the NHL, especially up here.
Q. Benefit of being around Dale Hunter and Dave Gagner?
PATRICK KANE: Definitely, they would pull us in, myself and Sam, at least once a month, tell us things we needed to work on to get to the next level. I think for me and Sam, that’s pretty much all we wanted to do, was play hockey. He was just a great kid to be around. It’s funny, we go there last year thinking it’s going to be a rebuilding year, and we have a pretty good year there, a great year for both of us. This is supposed to be the year for us to go to Memorial Cup. Both of us end up in the NHL. Pretty funny how things work out.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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