Nobody loves hockey more than Patrick Kane. Just ask his trainer Ian Mack, who took it a step further.
"He loves hockey more than anybody loves anything," Mack said on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast.
Kane turns 32 this month but is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, Mack believes Kane hasn't even reached his peak yet. And there’s a reason for that.
After the 2017-18 season in which Kane recorded 76 points in 82 games — not bad, but not great by his standards — Mack added Kane as a client and helped transform the Blackhawks superstar's body. Mack estimates Kane was using only 55-60 percent of what he could be moving and wanted to help him channel the rest of it.
"It was alarming and then it was cool," Mack said of his first training session with Kane. "I was like, 'Oh my God, how old are you?' I think he was 28 at the time and I was like, 'Ah, that's not great,' for where his hips were and how his shoulders were moving. And then I thought about a little more and I was like, 'Wait a minute. This guy is moving at 55 or 60 percent of what he could be moving at and he's considered one of the best in the world?' I started laughing and he's like, 'What's so funny?' I'm like, 'Nothing.' And he's like, 'No, no, tell me.' And I was, 'Alright. I don't know man, I just wish I could do my job at 60 percent and still be the best in the world. Like, that would be amazing. That would be unbelievable.' And he started laughing.
"But he's not at his ceiling yet. That's the other thing that people don't understand; he's still ascending, he's still getting better."
Kane followed up that 2017-18 season by setting a career high in assists (66) and points (110). He was also named tournament MVP at the 2018 IIHF World Championship shortly after working with Mack.
When Kane connected with Mack, the three-time Stanley Cup champion told him he wanted to "play this game at the highest level for the longest time and I will go at any length to make that happen," Mack recalls.
Patrick Marleau is 41 years old and could set the all-time record this season in games played, which is currently held by Gordie Howe (1,767). Can Kane be the next great player to play until he’s 40?
"I actually think he can play longer than that," Mack said. "I wouldn't put it past him that he can play at an elite level — an ELITE level — well into his mid-40s because of how he can contribute and what he can do. None of that's going away. Like, he's not beating people because he's just lightning quick and nobody can catch him; he's beating people because he's better at the sport and that's not going to go away with age. I think he's going to actually continue to get better here for a few more years and then I think he should stay there for a while."
For how long, exactly?
"He might not like when I say this, but I've said this before: I think he can play till he's 50," Mack said. "And I think that a large portion of that is how much he loves the game and how much he puts into it, how talented he is, how skilled he is. And then the other portion of that is, the science is always evolving and we're on a continuous hunt to continue to get better and give these guys the best opportunity to do that and I believe that our portion of it is also only going to get better at the same time he's getting better, and we're going to dial it in more and more for him every year, every week, every day. So I don't see him slowing down anytime soon.
"I think he's on the front half of his career, which a lot of people feel different about, but they don't see him every day. I see him every day and he's moving better right now than he was 20, when he was 25, and he's still going up. And if it takes 15, 16 years to get to the peak, it's going to take 15, 16 years to get back down and from what it sounded like when he was a rookie, he was already really great, so I think he's got a long, long career ahead. Much longer than people think."