Commentary

Kane on this season's early adversity, the Cubbies and Winter Classic

Updated: December 5, 2008, 6:12 PM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

At age 20, Patrick Kane has already emerged as one of the NHL's top players.

In this week's Facing Off, the 2007 No. 1 overall draft pick tells us why the Blackhawks could be bringing a championship to Chicago before the Cubs, who is the one franchise player he would love to play with and why the more facial hair he has, the better, for the Blackhawks.

Patrick Kane -- Quick Facts

• Kane was selected first overall by Chicago in 2007 NHL draft.

• He won the Calder Trophy as top rookie last season.

• He won the Canadian Hockey League scoring title as a rookie in 2006-07 (62 goals and 83 assists for 145 points).

• He played on a line with Sam Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

Question from David Amber: You turned 20 on Nov. 19. How did you celebrate your birthday?

Answer from Patrick Kane: It was tough, actually. We played at Phoenix, then had a day off and then played Dallas. My birthday was on our day off, so couldn't do too much. A few of us just went to dinner. Nothing crazy; there weren't any pranks from the guys. To be honest with you, I don't think 20 is a great birthday: You're not a teenager anymore, and you're not legal to do anything yet.

Q: You need to be traded to a Canadian team; then you're legal.

A: [Laughs] Sure.

Q: What was the highlight of your rookie season?

A: A few moments stand out, especially my first home game in Chicago. It was the season opener against Detroit. The game went to a shootout. I was the first shooter for the Hawks and I was going in on Dominik Hasek; he was one of my boyhood idols, having grown up in Buffalo. So to score what would end up [being] the winning goal in the shootout was amazing for me. Another memory was my first game in Buffalo. There was a lot of hype going into that game, and I scored on my second shift. And probably the other big one was playing against Joe Sakic. He was my favorite player growing up and it was the seventh game of the season and that was the night I scored my first regulation-time goal. I was named the first star of the game and Sakic was the second star, so that was really cool.

Q: Being the No. 1 overall pick, did you get treated differently as a rookie?

A: I think all rookies get the same treatment. We all got our fair share of pranks. I remember one day walking out from practice -- I think it was my birthday last year when I turned 19 -- and I couldn't find my car. I thought someone had stolen it at first, so I called our media-relations guy, Tony Ommen, and he laughed and said, "I know where they put it." Turns out one of the guys moved my car about a mile up the road [laughs]. So I got the rookie treatment, too.

Q: In your draft year, 10 first-round picks were American-born players, the same number as 2006. How are you viewing U.S. hockey as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics creep closer?

A: It's great. The national program in Ann Arbor is great. I was there for three years before going to the OHL. It's generating a lot of great young American players like Jack Johnson, Phil Kessel, Erik Johnson. I think we're going to be really good. Although we always seem to have a really good team on paper, we never seem to do so well in these tournaments. Hopefully we can change that in 2010.

Q: You're a young player, but you've already had some tough moments. Why were so emotional when you found out coach Denis Savard was fired?

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
AP Photo/Jerry LaiPatrick Kane has embraced many Chicago traditions, like throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field.

A: It was only four games into the season. There was so much hype around the team and he was part of that. I think for me, in that moment, I know I didn't play that great in the first four games, so I felt a little responsible for his job. That night, I had a meeting with him on what I could do to start playing better.

It was unfortunate what happened. It's great he's back with the team as an ambassador, but it was a sad day when he was let go as coach. He helped me and Jonathan [Toews] so much in our first year. If we had a bad shift or two, he wouldn't sit us like normal rookies would be sat. The day after he was fired, I was trying to get out of the locker room really quick so I wouldn't have to talk about it, but [the reporters] caught me right at the end, and I guess I just broke down. I don't regret it.

Q: Savard is now an ambassador for the team, but do you think he would like to get back into coaching in the NHL?

A: I don't know if he wants to be. Every coach gets fired, so I don't know. He likes being part of the Blackhawks organization. I think maybe, one day, he will go back to coaching, but I know he's happy here.

Q: Just like Savard, the knock on you before the draft was your size, but is there any advantage to being a smaller player?

A: I don't know about any advantage, but for me, when I'm on the ice, I don't think, "Well, I'm shorter than this guy, I'm not going to get the puck." I'm going to go get the puck because I want the puck. That's what keeps me going. I've had to deal with it my whole life. Before there was checking, parents would say, "When he gets to checking, he won't be as good." But even when I was 7 years old, I was getting hit by bigger players. It's been haunting me my whole career, but so far, I've been able to prove everyone wrong, and it's not something I worry about.

Q: You know who they used to say that about? Wayne Gretzky.

A: [Laughs] And he had a pretty good career, didn't he?

Q: A few days after you were selected by the Blackhawks, you threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game and then sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" with Savard during the seventh-inning stretch. What was that experience like?

A: It was crazy. I had an exam pushed back so that I could make it to Wrigley. It was pretty wild. You're out there in front of 40,000 people throwing a pitch. I was nervous, but it was fun. I did it this year, too, with Jonathan. I wasn't nearly as nervous the second time.

Q: Did you throw a strike?

A: Both times, a little outside to the left. The second one was a little closer than the first [laughs].

Q: How much are you looking forward to the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Wrigley Field?

A: I can't wait. I think it's going to be awesome. It's made for television. It will be so loud with two Original Six teams [Chicago and Detroit] playing at Wrigley. It doesn't get better than that.

Q: When is the last time you played a competitive game outdoors?

A: I was trying to think of that. My dad and I used to go to the outdoor rink in Buffalo and fool around down there. We would shoot and pass, but never a competitive game, so this will be new for me.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane and Jonathan Toews
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesPatrick Kane, right, said Jonathan Toews deserves to wear the "C' for the Hawks: "He makes everyone better and everyone work harder."

Q: Last season, the NHL wanted to promote Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at the Winter Classic. This season, it's the defending champion Red Wings along with you and Toews under the media spotlight. What does that mean to you to be given that international platform to showcase your skills?

A: It's cool. Right now, the league is being taken over by the young players. I don't think people realize how tough it is to make it to the NHL at that age, so to be one of the young guys playing in a game like this makes you feel good. Things were tough last year when we were getting 7,000 or 8,000 fans to some home games; no one knew who you were. So this game really represents a total 180 from where we were.

Q: You mention how young players are dominating the league. If you were starting up an NHL franchise right now and could have any player, who do you take?

A: I don't think you could go wrong with Alexander Ovechkin. He has so much passion for the game, and he loves to score. It would be fun to play with a guy like that, and he's so fun to watch, so I'd go with him.

Q: At just 20, you're right up near the league lead in points. How long before you win your first Art Ross Trophy?

A: [Laughs] I don't know. There is so much competition there with the Crosbys, Malkins and Ovechkins and guys like that. But I take pride in scoring goals and getting points -- that's what I was brought here to do. They drafted me to produce goals, so that's something I care about. It may never happen, but to be in the top 10 or top five is cool and something I take pride in.

Q: During a recent five-game points streak, you vowed not to shave until you were held off the score sheet. How superstitious are you?

A: Not very superstitious at all. I told my dad I would do it. It was funny because, during the streak, there was a week off between games, so it got a little fuzzy there. After that streak ended, I had another five-game streak going, so the beard came back. So it's something I plan to do when I'm on a roll.

Q: When Toews was given the "C," how did you feel knowing that possibly meant you may never get that chance to have that role in Chicago?

A: I felt really good for him. Last year, he had to come along for all the Calder Trophy stuff, so I felt bad for him there, so it was nice he got something, too. He deserves it. The way he leads on and off the ice, he eats, sleeps and breathes the game, so it is good for him. He makes everyone better and everyone work harder. For me, I don't know if I could handle that pressure right now; I just like going out and playing and not having to worry about it.

Q: And in Chicago, the hope is you and Toews can provide a one-two punch like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did in Pittsburgh.

A: I kind of made a comment when I got drafted that maybe we could be the next [Michael] Jordan and [Scottie] Pippen, and that kind of put high standards out there for us [laughs]. But you hear the comparison to Crosby and Malkin; just being mentioned with them is huge for us.

Q: So will the Hawks win a Cup before the Cubs win a World Series?

A: I don't know. The Cubs are coming close, but they have a bad curse going on there. I think we're close. Our goal is to make the playoffs this year. But I think we have the foundation to be very good. To say we're a Cup team right now, I'd be lying to you. I think we're a couple of years away, but you never know what will happen with free-agent signings and trades. We definitely are on the right path to win a championship.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a contributor to ESPN.com.