Blackhawks introduce top draft choice
Kirby Dach can't stand to lose.
Hockey. Basketball. A backyard baseball game.
No matter what -- no matter the circumstances -- the Blackhawks' prospect will do whatever it takes to win.
Even if his parents attempt to intercede.
"We have a little outdoor rink behind our place that the city of Fort Saskatchewan puts up," said Dale Dach moments after his 18-year-old son was introduced as the city's most recent No. 3 overall draft pick Monday inside the United Center. "Whether he's out there with older kids or younger kids, he's winning. … There's no holding back.
"And as a parent, you try to go out there and say, 'Hey -- tone it down a bit.' And, nope. You walk 10 feet away, turn your back and he's winning. He just wants to win."
That competitive fire is what drove Michael Jordan -- taken No. 3 by the Bulls in 1984 -- and helped him bring six NBA championships to the Bulls. Jordan hated to lose on the court, sure, but he also wanted to dominate during practice, on the golf course, on the diamond, at cards and so much more.
It hardly went unnoticed by emcee Eddie Olczyk -- yet another former No. 3 overall pick -- that MJ's statue sat just 30 feet away from Dach, General Manager Stan Bowman and Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley.
"We'd like to welcome MJ -- Michael Jordan -- to our news conference as well," Olczyk joked.
Later, Dach talked about his desire to help any team he's on reach its ultimate goal.
"Winning to me is everything," Dach said. "There's a saying, 'You gotta hate to lose before you like to win.' And I hate to lose, so anything I do I always have to win no matter what it is.
"It's something that drives me. The ultimate goal in hockey is to win the Stanley Cup, and I'm going to work as hard as I can and push myself to every limit to get there."
In addition to possessing the obvious high-end skill that every top pick has, it was this drive to win that tipped the scales for Bowman and Kelley when they opted to take Dach over defenseman Bowen Byram and center Alex Turcotte.
As he did at last weekend's draft, Bowman reiterated how much he loved Dach's competitiveness during the Western Hockey League playoffs. Despite Dach's opponents doing everything they could to frustrate and contain him, the 6-foot-4, 198-pound center continued to produce and -- just importantly -- to push back.
"That's the moment of the year when you can tell a lot about a player because the intensity level changes," Bowman said. "Sometimes players … aren't able to take their game up to the next level. …
"But he demonstrated the ability to continue to be the talented player he was (and) also show them he wasn't going to back down. That's an attribute that you need if you're going to be a successful NHL player. It was nice to see how he responded."
How he responds to playing against full-time NHLers during training camp will determine if Dach plays for the Hawks this season or if Bowman and others decide he needs another year to develop.
His open-ice moves, skating ability, soft hands and deadly shot were on full display last season when he had 30 goals and 51 assists in 72 games (including playoffs) for the Saskatoon Blades.
But even Dach knows there is plenty of work to do. Not only must he get bigger and stronger, but he's also about to experience a pace of play that can make even the best second guess themselves at times.
"I don't understand what that's going to be like until I get there and play with those guys and practice with them," Dach said. "So for me to get into camp, I'm going to make it tough on the management group to send me back and I'm going to give them every reason to keep me here."
And once he is here full time? And able to learn from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome and others?
Well, Dale Dach says watch out.
"The ceiling for Kirby is almost unreachable," Dale said. "He will push himself and the Chicago Blackhawks fans and organization will see that he'll do everything in his power to become one of the best players in the league."