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

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