DALLAS — Patrick Kane has raised the bar yet another notch.
The Chicago Blackhawks forward, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., has been outstanding this season, helping his club jump out to a league record 24-game points streak to start the season (21-0-3).
His lengthening highlight reel added another chapter March 16 in Dallas, when Kane’s spectacular third-period goal increased the Blackhawks’ lead to 8-1. It might have been somewhat meaningless, but it was a thing of beauty as he executed a perfect spin-o-rama move that led into a backhander that beat goaltender Richard Bachman past the glove.
“I knew the score was kind of up there a little bit, so I thought I’d have a little fun with it,” said Kane, who ranked sixth overall in the NHL with 15 goals, and sat fifth in the league with 34 points, through 28 games as of March 17.
His teammates were left in awe.
“That was unbelievable,” marveled Marian Hossa. “I see that in a practice, he always does that, but to do it in a game and to top-shelf it like that, it’s just pure skill.”
“You can see the magical things he can do with the puck,” added defenseman Nick Leddy. “He’s amazing.”
Overall, Kane, who recently recorded his 400th career NHL point even though he’s still just 24 and in his sixth season, doesn’t really feel like he’s doing anything differently than he did before.
“I don’t know, I think you’re playing with good players, the coach has faith and I’m getting a lot of ice time,” said Kane, who was averaging 20:09 of ice per game to lead all Chicago forwards. “And the team is doing well, so that’s going to help you too. But I still feel, and a lot of guys in here probably feel the same way, that we can reach another level, and I feel the same about myself.”
Dave Bolland, who has skated as Kane’s center most of the season, called Kane “A special kind of player.”
“The way he moves the puck — he’s one of the top players in the NHL these days,” Bolland said. “He’s taken it to another level now. He’s got the experience now, he’s been in the league for a number of years now and I think he knows what he can bring to the table.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville believes the improvement has to do with Kane sharpening his mental focus and perhaps displaying a more determined commitment to helping out on defense.
“You got to like the way he’s prepared himself game-in and game-out,” Quenneville said. “The consistency of his approach has been very noticeable. Offensively, he has the puck a lot and is skating as well as we’ve ever seen him and shooting the puck as well as we’ve seen him.
“But defensively, he’s got an awareness to his game — it seems like he’s getting pucks back and then when he does get it back, he does some good things with it. But we love the consistency of his game and his approach.”
Kane credits the two years he spent as a teenager at the U.S. National Team Development Program under Coach John Hynes (who now coaches Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL) as a major influence on his growth into a more complete player.
“I think for players like me, who were kind of under-developed at the age of 15 or 16, to have a chance to go to a program like that, where they really stressed working out and skating an hour and a half, two hours a day, in the long run, it’s really good for players,” said Kane, who went on to play one year for OHL London, winning the league scoring title with 145 points (62 goals, 83 assists) in just 58 games, before the Blackhawks selected him first overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
“I really enjoyed my time there, I thought it was a huge part of my development and Coach Hynes was awesome to me. He was very hard on me, but at the same time, he tried to get the best out of me. I’m really happy I went there.”
Kane has been a fixture for Team USA ever since. He helped the stars and stripes win bronze at the 2007 World Junior Championships before joining the national team for the 2008 World Championships, and of course, serving as a key offensive catalyst on the U.S. squad at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“It’s unbelievable [representing your country],” the 5-foot-11, 181-pound Kane said. “I think any time you get a chance to do that, it’s quite an honor, and to put that sweater on, it’s really a great feeling.”
Even though Team USA lost the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game in overtime to Canada, Kane, who assisted on both American goals to lead a comeback from a 2-0 deficit, still looks back on the entire experience in Vancouver fondly.
“Yeah, you want to win the gold,” acknowledged Kane, who recorded three goals and five points in six games there. “But the way it turned out, with us winning the silver medal and how good it was for hockey and how great that game was and how people who watched that game said it was one of the best games they’ve ever seen — things like the comeback, the way Canada won in Canada — it was tough to lose at the time, but to look back, we really made some great strides for USA Hockey.”
And if the NHL players participate next season at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, there’s little question Kane would be again be a crucial contributor for Team USA.
“Hopefully you can be on that team, too,” said Kane, who also scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 to help the Blackhawks win the 2010 title. “I feel U.S. hockey is growing, you can kind of see that from the players that are in the league now and how well we did at the last Olympics. I think you’ll probably see a lot of guys that were on that team will be some of the same players coming back [in 2014] because they’ve matured and gotten even better as players. I’m looking forward to it, it would be a great honor to do it again.”
As he continues to raise his level of play, that is pretty much assured.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials.
USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?
Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.
USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season?
Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that.
The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.
USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?
Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.
USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official?
Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.
USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career?
Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.
USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?
Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.
USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?
Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.
USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career?
Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.
Tag(s): Men's National Team