Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 04/23/08 at 07:07 PM ET
Today’s NHL media conference call brought together Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Nicklas Backstrom from Washington. Earlier today all three were named as finalists for the Calder Trophy Award for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Here is a transcript from that Q&A session.
Q. For Patrick and Jonathan, going after the same award, how do the two of you feel about that?
PATRICK KANE: I think it’s special. I mean, especially for both of us to come in together and have a lot of pressure on us, and you know, kind of be the face of the franchise, come in and have pretty good years, and it’s nice to be nominated.
I mean we’ve been together pretty much the whole year through everything. We’ve roomed together and it’s nice to be together again and be nominated with each other.
Q. Jonathan, if you could talk about it, as well.
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think Patrick said it. It’s special, and we did so many things together on and off the ice: We were line mates, we were roommates on the road, a lot of professional stuff in Chicago that we were always included in. So a lot of the things we had to face as rookies and young players in the National Hockey League, we dealt with together.
So for us to be sitting here today and have the honor of being recognized and having the chance to win this award, I think it’s special for us and a lot of this we owe to our teammates, our coaches; but I think that we helped each other get here, too.
Q. Just a thought on how many rookies guys have pretty good years and maybe how special it is to be singled out, certainly the Edmonton guys came hard at the end, Price in Montréal, your thoughts on a lot of first-year players who made this race interesting.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I think there’s a lot of good players, I mean, I think a whole bunch of young players have stepped up this season, I mean, I think it’s special for us. I think there are many good, young players.
PATRICK KANE: It was a good race. As far as us three, I think we were kind of, you know, with each other the whole year as far as points went and Mueller was up there and you’ve even got the Edmonton kid, and Price came on strong at the end, too.
I think it’s a special year for rookies. There’s a lot of good players out there and there really wasn’t one that controlled everything over the other one. We were all pretty even, and us three being nominated is pretty special and it’s nice to be part of it.
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think Patrick and Nicklas both said, there’s no denying how many good young players there are around the league this year. So congratulations to all those players still playing and making a huge difference for their teams in the playoffs right now.
I think it’s an honor for us to be the last three and be nominated for this award and have a chance to join the club of all those players who have won it in previous years and gone on to have great years in the National Hockey League.
So I think we all know, if the other guy wins it, that, you know, I think Patrick and Nicklas are both going to be superstars in this league. I think it will be exciting to see how all three of us do down the road. I think we are going to have a great time in June at the NHL banquet.
Q. For Patrick and Jonathan, is this another indicator of the resurgence this year of the Blackhawks with having the two Rookie of the Year candidates?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I guess so. I think to a certain extent, there’s quite a few exciting games, especially halfway and near the end of the year where we are trying to make playoffs, and a lot of those games were team efforts.
But I think a lot of the time, you know, Patrick and I got a lot of the credit for some of those games. Although there was a lot of hype and a lot of pressure, I think we played well enough through those games and throughout the season just to kind of dragging out that whole situation of everything kind of being—I guess a rebirth you could say in Chicago. I guess you could say it’s the best time possible for us to start our career in a situation like that and regardless of what’s going to happen the next month or so with the Calder Award, I think we are excited about our situation in Chicago and the opportunities.
PATRICK KANE: I think if you look back at it, I don’t think we could have went into a better situation in our rookie year. We got a lot of ice time. Hardy (ph) played us a lot and never really got down on us too hard. That was nice, too. He gave us a lot of confidence to kind of do our thing on the ice and keep playing.
But there are so many good players on the team that kind of, you know, like Jonathan said, didn’t really get a lot of the credit because we were there, and I think that was unfair. But at the same time, it’s nice that the Blackhawks are back and it’s nice that we are winning games again. And we were only three points out of the playoffs.
But at the same time, I mean, next year we have to make sure we’re not in that situation where we’re playing for our lives the last two months of the season. We know we have to win every game.
It’s a tough season and it’s too tough of a league to do that. So I think next year will be better and hopefully we’ll get there and makes playoffs and do some damage in the playoffs.
Q. If you could offer the best tip you received—for the upcoming entry draft in June, what might that be; the best tip that you received in the NHL this year whether be from a coach or player that you might be able to offer a player in the upcoming entry draft that’s going to be drafted, what might that tip be?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I think there’s a lot of young players out there—I don’t have a good answer, sorry.
PATRICK KANE: I guess just have fun with it. You know, you come into the NHL and you’re so worried about playing good that you realize that you get away from hockey and you realize that it’s just a game once the season goes on, and you know, sometimes you get caught up in it. Obviously it’s the NHL and it’s the best league in the world, but you know, at the same time, you’ve really got to realize that it’s just hockey and you have to go out and have fun and do those things and play hard.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Yeah, I think so. I think Patrick is right. There are a lot of things that you can’t control in our game. You never know what you’re going to run into, whether it’s politics or anything like that. That’s just the way it goes.
Pretty much all you can do is just work hard and have fun and enjoy the game and if you’re a good player and you have a work ethic and that dream, I highly doubt there’s anyone that can stop from you doing it.
Q. And how important was the GM, Dale Tallon, in making the transition to the NHL?
PATRICK KANE: He’s great. He’s definitely a players’ GM, a lot of jokes going around the room and he’s a fun guy to be around. I think any time you talk to him, he shows you the confidence that he has in you and shows why he drafted you. He keeps telling you the right things to do and make sure you’re working hard.
I know he pulled me aside one time in the season to make sure I was doing the right thing to my body and make sure I was doing the right things in practice, working hard. And it just shows; he’s a great guy, but he really cares about the team. And as far as he is funny, he just cares about winning games and I think he’s a lot of fun around the room, but he’s a great GM I think.
JONATHAN TOEWS: I agree. I think he has that ability to lighten things up in the locker room and guys enjoy being around him. He doesn’t make you feel like everything is business all the time.
But I think he’s got the players’ respect and everybody in the locker room, so when he comes in and tells you something, you’re going to listen to him. So I think just the way he goes about things, especially around us, the players, and you know, what he does goes a long way with us.
Q. What has the ride been like and what have you learned in those earlier years that have stuck with you along the way?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I don’t know. I guess you learn so much over the years. I was fortunate to be a part of some great teams in minor hockey and then played for some coaches who cared about me and cared about their players and taught me a heck of a lot.
And I owe a lot to my parents, growing up, just learning—knowing what a work ethic is and what it takes to have success. So I think that starts when you’re young and when you have a dream.
I think even early on, I knew and believed in myself that I would be able to play in the National Hockey League, but sometimes when it does happen, you’ve got to pinch yourself. It’s kind of weird at first, but it’s been exciting, and after all those years, I can definitely say I have no regrets.
Q. You guys assisted on each other’s goals so much and played on the same line. If one of you wins it, does it kind of feel like if one of you wins it, that it’s an award for both of you?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I think so. Like I said, we’ve been together so much throughout the year. There’s probably only a handful of games that we really weren’t on the same line, and if one of us doesn’t really win, it it’s just a tribute to the other what they have done. It’s pretty much an award for the Blackhawks either way. If one of us wins, it’s just another thing to kind of top off the season and realize that the buzz is back with the Blackhawks. That’s all that really matters I think.
Obviously I think we would both give it up for a chance to be in the playoffs right now and be playing for a Stanley Cup, but it’s nice to be recognized and it’s nice to at least be nominated for the award. Just that in itself is an honor.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Yeah, I agree, in a lot of ways we owe the nomination and the attention we have got to everyone we played with and our coaching staff for giving us the opportunity to go out and play our game.
Like you said, I think not only on the ice, not only as far as goals and assists that we produced, I think we went through a lot of things together on and off the ice. We roomed together and we did a lot of things away from the rink, and I think every step of the way, I think we’ve always been there. It’s kind of like having Patrick around is kind of like having a shoulder to lean on almost.
So I think we’ve helped each other get through that, and I think it’s been much more enjoyable having a guy like Patrick around all the time. So for us it’s an honor to be in this boat together and to represent our team like this.
Q. How did the coaching change affect your season specifically?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: It’s tough to go over there and it was a lot different but he changed a lot of things, he changed the system and I got more ice time and I feel more comfortable out there. Having more ice time gives me more confidence and everything like that. So he helped the team a lot and he turned around everything. I mean, he’s been a good help for me. I’m glad that he took over, and so that’s why we made the playoffs and that’s pretty good.
Q. I know it’s soon, but has anybody contacted you about playing in the World Championship yet?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I haven’t talked to coach. We’ll see what happens. I’ll just wait and see.
Q. Patrick and Jonathan, you guys accomplished a lot together this year, but in a couple of weeks you’ll be going head-to-head at the World Championship in Halifax. What’s that going to be like, and any predictions on who is going to come out object top?
PATRICK KANE: We’ll see what happens. It will be fun to play against him. I’ve been playing with him the whole year and it will be nice to be on the other side. Obviously you don’t want to play against him but it will be a little different. He’ll we what happens. We have some other teammates with Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp, so it will be interesting to play against them guys, too.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Yeah, I think it will be fun, have a different look at it, see him on the other side, and so I think it will be fun for all of us to be in that together.
But regardless, you know, I think business is business, and I think we are going to—the fact that he’s going to be on the other side of the rink will only I guess add to the fact that we want to play hard in that game.
So we’re looking forward to it and I think the U.S. and Canada will be two strong teams. So we’ll probably run into each other more than once.
Q. Who would you vote for for the Calder Trophy if you had the chance?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I don’t know, that’s a tough thing. With Nicklas on the line, I think we have to go right ahead and give him credit for everything he’s accomplished this year. He’s an incredible player and proved that in the playoff series, and congratulations to him for doing so well and everything that he did.
I think we are a little biased on this. I would go right ahead—if I couldn’t vote for myself, I’d have to go ahead and say Patrick I guess, just because I’ve seen him firsthand all year and he’s proved to me what kind of player and person he is.
PATRICK KANE: I think he said it pretty good. I know with Nicklas, we were kind of playing for the scoring race right up to the end there. And I know I would be watching games, watching his games and be marveling at some of the plays he was making. He’s a great passer and really sets up plays good.
It’s tough. I mean, I’ve played—like he said, I’ve played with him the whole year and he’s a great two-way player and he’s easy to get on with on and off the ice. It would be tough not to vote for Jonathan. I think if he had a couple more games under his belt and not get injured, there might be a different story and we would probably know who would win this award.
I think I’ve got to go with him I think.
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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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