Patrick Kane

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 2: Patrick Kane

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 2: Patrick Kane

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

One year after taking Jonathan Toews with the No. 3 overall pick, the Blackhawks picked first overall for the first time in franchise history and selected Patrick Kane. 

The fortunes of the franchise had changed. It was time for the Blackhawks to compete.

Kane and Toews each made their NHL debuts during the 2007-08 season and were two of the three Calder Trophy candidates as the league's top rookies. Kane led all rookies in points (72), power play goals (7) and power play points (28) and established a new Blackhawks rookie record with 51 assists in a single season, en route to winning the award over his teammate.

But the team still missed the playoffs despite their pair of rookie phenoms.

Kane vowed at his Calder-winning press conference to improve his game and lead the Blackhawks back to the playoffs.

He backed up his word by scoring 25 goals and 45 assists for 70 points, helping lead the franchise back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season. They went on to defeat the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks in six games each before a humbling series against their long-time rival Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals.

As his game further developed, Kane set a new career high with 88 points in 2009-10 and 28 points in 22 postseason contests as the Blackhawks went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Kane, of course, had his signature moment, scoring the game-winning goal against the Flyers in overtime of Game 6.

On top of his playmaking ability, Kane had the flare of a budding star in the NHL and became known for chewing on his signature mouth guard. He went on to become the cover boy of EA Sports' NHL 10 video game, clinching his rise as one of the league's top superstars.

Conventional Wisdom: Takeaways from Blackhawks convention

Conventional Wisdom: Takeaways from Blackhawks convention

With the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention in the books, here are some of the things that stood out most to me.

Corey Crawford didn’t look or sound like a goalie who will be ready for the start of training camp. Beyond saying that he wasn’t 100 percent healthy, Crow looked like a guy who is still on the road to recovery. I can still remember Crawford talking to reporters back on February 12 in Arizona.  

It was disturbing and scary to see him pause and search for answers that day. While Corey didn’t struggle like that at the convention, he didn’t leave you with the feeling that a return to the crease was in his immediate future.

While the team remains optimistic that Crawford will be ready for training camp, I would be stunned if Crow is ready to go in mid-September. Talking with one of my colleagues at the convention, they said “Corey reminds me of when we talked to Sidney Crosby back in 2012 and we wondered if his career would be cut short because of concussions.”

We all know things worked out for Crosby and he’s won a couple more championships since missing 108 games in the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Let’s hope Crawford follows the same road back to health and hockey.

I am really looking forward to reading Rocky Wirtz’s new book, "The Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Wirtz Family Business and the Chicago Blackhawks." Looking at some of the excerpts that have been released, the Chairman doesn’t hold anything back. Rocky told fans at the convention that his goal was to tell the truth and not sugar coat his family’s story. 

During an interview Jonathan Toews discussed how missing the playoffs was a “humbling experience and it’s time to earn it all over again.” Duncan Keith admitted the losing last year affected his attitude and he looks to take an upbeat approach to this young team as they attempt to get back to the postseason.

Watching Eddie Olczyk and Pat Foley embrace during the opening ceremonies, seeing the emotion pour out, I couldn’t help but think about the inspiring journey Edzo took us all on over the last year. He educated thousands of folks every time he was on the radio or TV about colon cancer. Many believe Eddie’s public battle played a role in the American Cancer Society recommending that people should start screening tests for colon and rectal cancers at age 45, rather than waiting until age 50. 

Every Hawks player I spoke with that has played in the 4-on-4 Chicago Pro Hockey League has raved about the experience. They find it a great way to supplement their off-season workouts with on ice action, that is both competitive and safe. Alex DeBrincat loved his experience at the World Championships this past May and his face lit up when I asked him about continuing to play on Patrick Kane’s line this upcoming season. It will be interesting to see if Joel Quenneville will change his stance on putting Kane and “The Cat” together.

With Gustav Forsling having surgery this week on his right wrist, he will not be ready for training camp and won’t be expected to return to action until early November. The consensus opinion at the convention is that Henri Jokiharju is ready to play in the NHL and will likely make the team.

Lastly, stick tap to the Blackhawks faithful. You guys don’t let missing the playoffs, or a couple of one and dones, dampen your enthusiasm for this team. You rock the Indian Head sweater up and down Michigan Avenue in extreme temperatures and pack the Hilton Chicago every single year, never letting the win/loss record affect your positive attitude. Duncan Keith said he feeds off the energy of the fans at the convention and that also goes for those of us who are privileged to cover this team.

Chicago Pro Hockey League set to kick off at MB Ice Arena

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USA TODAY

Chicago Pro Hockey League set to kick off at MB Ice Arena

Hockey in July? Sign us up.

The Chicago Pro Hockey League is set to begin on Wednesday at MB Ice Arena — the home of the Blackhawks practice facility — which will feature more than 80 professional hockey players from the NHL, AHL and ECHL, along with 80 elite amateurs from various Division 1 colleges, junior teams and AAA programs. 

Among the notable participants: Brandon Bollig, Alex DeBrincat, Connor Carrick, Ryan Dzingel, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Henri Jokiharju, John Moore, Jordan Oesterle, Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz, Garret Sparks and Tommy Wingels. USA Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne is also slated to play and will be the only female to do so.

Patrick Kane was originally listed as part of the roster but is no longer on it, although he could make an appearance if his schedule allows it.

Joel Quenneville spoke at the NHL Draft about the summer league and plans to attend.

"I probably will stop by and watch some games," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's good for the agents, good for the players. The Boston league seemed to work well and players have fun with it. One game, no contact situation. It's good for their conditioning and keep their skills a little sharper and I think they'll have some fun with one another as well."

There will be four games every Wednesday — two for each league at 6:20/6:30 and 7:50 p.m — across seven weeks, with each team scheduled to play six regular-season games, one playoff game (Aug. 22) and the potential to advance to the championship game on Aug. 23. The games will be played at 4-on-4 with two 25-minute halves. Overtime will be played at 3-on-3 for five minutes, followed by a shootout if the score remains tied; playoff games will be played at 5-on-5, but overtime rules will remain the same.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. on game days and the cost is $5 to attend, but for those not able to, all games will be broadcast and streamed live on the CPHL website as a way to keep up with the action.