From Child to Champion

Three-time NHL All-Star. Olympic silver medalist. Stanley Cup Champion. Stanley Cup Champion (again). Playoff MVP.

Patrick Kane has it all.

“He was always that much better than anyone else,” according to Doug Smith, one of Kane’s youth coaches. “He scores goals now, just like he did when he was a little kid.”

Smith coached the Wheatfield Blades in the Empire West League for nine years, but for five of those years, he had to face off against Kane’s club, the West Seneca Wings. At age 11, Kane moved to the Blades, much to Smith’s delight.

“I said to his dad (Pat Kane), ‘why don’t you finish out the year with us?’, and he did,” Smith said.

Listen to Doug Smith’s account of how his team landed Patrick Kane at age 11:

Kane’s record-breaking performances on the ice are fueled by his natural talent, but that’s only part of the equation.

“He worked hard at it,” Smith said. “There are guys who can go do things and not practice it, but he worked at every bit of it. He was on the ice morning, noon and night. He was like a fish in the water. He was always on the ice. He’d leave my practice and go right on to the next practice. He just wanted to play all the time. He deserved everything he got.”

Smith continued, marveling at Kane’s passion for the game as a youngster. “He didn’t like to lose. I don’t know if it’s ‘love to win or hate to lose’, but I know he sure didn’t like to lose.”

After watchi

After reliving each of his playoff goals with his dad, Patrick Kane scored a 2OT game-winner to complete his first-career playoff hat-trick and send the rolling Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final (Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press).

The model work-ethic Smith observed of the youngster Kane hasn’t changed one bit, as Kane, now a grown man, works harder than ever to produce the results we see on the ice. In fact, after going seven playoff games without scoring a goal, Kane and his dad, sat down and watched all of his then-22 career playoff goals. After that, Kane scored seven goals in the next eight games to help the Blackhawks grab hold of their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

“It’s not that all of a sudden that I’m a bad player,” Kane said to reporters at the time. “It just doesn’t happen like that. I had a good regular season, and I’m still a good player in this league and can make plays. It’s something I’ve just got to go out and do. I can’t take no for an answer.”

Smith echoed Kane’s determination: “People say, ‘Oh Patrick Kane, he’s not doing as well as he used to,’ then in the next game he’ll score a hat trick or a game winning goal, he turns his game back to dominating.”

Kane’s NHL success has brought him immense popularity in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. Smith saw this adoration when Kane brought Lord Stanley’s Cup to Niagara Falls in 2010.

“In Niagara falls, the people are all around him,” Smith recounted. “Then there are the other players, about five or six of them, (Jonathan) Toews was one of them. They’re all sitting on the side, nobody’s even going by them. It was funny that Kane was surrounded and the others were all just standing there. Nobody even knew who they were.”

Patrick Kane poses on the ice during his younger years. Smith: “He was always that much better than anyone else."

Patrick Kane poses on the ice during his younger years. Smith: “He was always that much better than anyone else.”

Buffalo’s love affair with Kane has affected his family, too.

“If I didn’t have such a high sense of morals, I probably could get a lot of free meals,” the elder Kane told The Daily Herald.

It hasn’t all been red roses for the Kanes.

In August of 2009, the Blackhawks’ forward, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal one year later, and his cousin, James Kane, were arrested for allegedly punching cabbie Jan Radecki. The two were charged with theft of services, second-degree robbery, and fourth-degree criminal mischief.

In a press conference, Kane cited being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and “sincerely” apologized. Smith, who also coached James, was largely forgiving of Kane’s mishap: “We all make mistakes,” he said. “I don’t know much about it. He did something he shouldn’t have been doing.”

As for his on-the-ice issues, there haven’t been many.

“There’s nothing I could tell him (to change),” Smith said. “He makes some really good players look like fools, it’s fun to watch.”

One happenstance in which Kane put his fool-making of others on display was his dazzling shootout-winning goal against the Red Wings, which you can watch below:

“I was mesmerized. The goalie was mesmerized, he didn’t know what to do,” Smith said of the goal. “As good as he is with the puck now, that’s how he was with little kids.”

The praise continued: “Even when he was a little kid, he was the best side-to-side kid I’d ever seen, and he still does the same thing in the NHL,” Smith said. “He’s able to suck another player over, and once that happens, it’s all over.”

However, Smith joked, there’s one glaring weakness that Kane could use some work on. “He’s not a good fighter.”

Listen to Doug Smith recount his time coaching 11-year-old Patrick Kane:

By Sam Brief

Feel free to leave a comment below! Your opinion is always welcome.

The Sports Brief is on Twitter! Follow @SamBrief for even more insight and opinion.


29 thoughts on “From Child to Champion

  1. Solid piece Sam, although being a Bruins fan, it pains me to read about Kane. At least is a Team USA product that I can pull for during Olympic play. Good to see you posting again. Hope journalism school went well for you

      • I definitely do. The 2010 Olympic Gold Medal game, losing on a game-winner by Crosby, was a heart-breaker but I’m hoping that the US can get the same guys together again. Miller was astounding at goalie in the 2010 games and if they can get the same kind of effort out of Quick they’ll have a chance to take home the gold. I think it’ll be between the USA, Canada, & Sweeden

  2. Very nice piece – it really drew me in. You found a fresh angle on a topic that already has received a ton of coverage. Can you believe that it’s been a solid month since Kane & Company hoisted the Cup in Boston?!

      • It still plays a part and until Gary Bettman and the union come to a compromise , on a number of issues . Both parties will remain at an impasse . Also , if Ilya Kovalchuk can walk away from $77 million as he did . Then what does that signify to you ? Tere are other Russian players in the NHL , who may well be of the same mindset . They can earn money in Europe and not be taxed at the levels now seen here in the US .

        Courtesy of NY Post

        Devils’ Kovalchuk shockingly retires from NHL, leaves $77 million behind

        Associated Press

        Devils superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk is retiring from the NHL and returning to Russia.

        The Devils announced the stunning news Thursday afternoon in a statement, saying that the 30-year-old Kovalchuk had alerted general manager and president Lou Lamoriello earlier this year that he wanted to return home with his family after 11 seasons in the NHL.

        “This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” said Kovalchuk, the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft. “Though I decided to return this past season, Lou was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me. The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils.”

        The move is more surprising because Kovalchuk signed a $100 million, 15-year contract in 2010. He’ll be walking away from it.

        He had $77 million left on the contract that expires in 2024-25. He was to earn more than $11 million each of the next four seasons and $10 million in the fifth season before his contract numbers started to decline.

        “After many conversations with Ilya over the past year on his desire to retire from the National Hockey League, Ilya’s decision became official today,” Lamoriello said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Ilya and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”

        The defection means the Devils have lost their top two players after each of the past two seasons. Zach Parise signed as a free agent with Minnesota after their 2012 run to the Stanley Cup finals and now Kovalchuk is leaving the team without a superstar, since Martin Brodeur can no longer fill that category in his 40s.

        Acquired in a trade with Atlanta, Kovalchuk spent his last four seasons with the Devils. He scored 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points in 816 NHL games. His best NHL seasons were in 2005-06 and 2007-08 when he scored a career-high 52 goals. He had three other 40-goal seasons. His best season with the Devils was 2011-12 when he had 37 goals.

        Click on link to read in full .

        Far too many fans simply look at the sport , without ever looking at the business side of it , at all .

        tophatal …………

      • Walking away from $77 million is something I can hardly fathom. When I first heard of his decision, I instantly pointed to the danger of long-term deals, as it’s foolish to sign anyone to a 15-year deal.

        How do the numbers work out if he had a similar salary in Russia (what would he have made there)?

      • I will definitely be more attentive to the NHL next season. I always liked hockey, but the Thrashers kind of made me turn away from it. They were never a very well run organization, and they only had like one winning season out of the 11 they were in Atlanta, so it made it hard to root for them. But I think the franchise is much better off in Winnipeg.

  3. Sam

    The NHL and its business template is so skewered and many of these deals are simply farcical to begin with . Kovalchuk walks , then signs with a team in Russia and it is to a paltry deal . The cost of living is not that high overall, but steadily rising . But yet , the economy , there in Russia is not yet on par with many of the healthier economies of Western Europe or specifically the main central members of the EU (European Union)

    Highest paid players in the NHL (annual salary)

    NHL team salaries …… Cap projections of $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season .

    Chicago Blackhawks & salaries year by year .

    New York Rangers` payroll

    Pittsburgh Penguins` payroll

    Washington Capitals payroll

    tophatal …..

  4. Sam

    First it`s is family and now he has 4 million annual reasons to smile . Last I looked , his family were not forced into exile or sent to an outpost in Siberia , nor were they economically deprived . While playing here in the US, I am sure that any of the teams in question facilitated him (Kovalchuk) with all of the needs necessary to have them flown in at the organizations` cost .

    So <a href=http://Matt Kemp is now crying foul and believes that the BBWAA should now take away Ryan Braun`s 2011 NL MVP Award ? Oh, the hypocrisy of the players in baseball ! Where was Kemp wen Manny Ramirez , a known two-time offender got busted ? Ramirez , having never served the mandatory 100 game suspension for violating te league`s policy for a second time ( retired and then went to play in the Far East) is now back playing in the Minors for a <a href= Texas Rangers` affiliate . Meanwhile the BBWAA , arbiters of the award , have stated that Braun will still be recognized as the NL MVP recipient for 2011 and should be deemed as such. Once again , showing that the Baseball Writers Association of America not only has a credibility issue but also an integrity problem as well .

    If at all interested ? Three earlier pieces .



    Composite piece ….

    tophatal ……………

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