Chicago Blackhawks' Kane a star to media as well

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) breaks free from Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) and Anthony Duclair (91) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla.

    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) breaks free from Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) and Anthony Duclair (91) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla.

 
 
Updated 3/8/2021 5:22 PM

Four-hundred goals, 660 assists and 1,060 points.

Three Stanley Cups.

 

A Hart Trophy for regular-season MVP and a Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP.

And now another milestone is here for Patrick Kane -- his 1,000th NHL game. It will come Tuesday when the Blackhawks begin a six-game road trip at Dallas.

Kane will become the youngest Blackhawk to achieve the milestone at 32 years, 110 days, beating Brent Seabrook's mark by 233 days.

Leading the Hawks into playoff contention with 11 goals and 27 assists in 26 games, Kane is at the top of the MVP conversation and might be having the best season of his career.

Rather than focus on any of those amazing feats, I thought we'd examine an under-the-radar topic that doesn't get nearly enough attention: The fact that Kane should be considered the media's MVP during most seasons.

It's not just that he's generous with his time, especially on game days. It's more that he truly listens to the questions, then gives thoughtful responses. He'll even tweak answers if asked the same thing a second, third of fourth day in a row -- something that's not that uncommon.

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Here's a behind-the-scenes look at three moments that stick out for me after six-plus years on the beat.

• It's early in the 2014-15 season and I get Kane for a 1-on-1 at his locker stall. He almost certainly has no idea who I am as colleague Mike Spellman has handled 95 percent of our coverage to this point.

Kane was mired in a goal-scoring slump in which he'd scored just once in 11 games, so I asked him what he thought of his season to that point.

His honest, point-blank assessment: "As an offensive guy you're always looking at how much you're producing and how much you're creating for the team. If it's not up to par, then obviously you're not doing something right and you're not doing your job."

My biggest takeaway from our five-minute chat: Even though I was just beginning on the beat, he was willing to open up to a reporter he'd never met.

(Quick side note: After the story ran, Kane scored 14 goals in the next 20 games).

• Almost exactly one year later, a group of reporters was talking to Viktor Tikhonov, a good friend of rookie Artemi Panarin. Tikhonov mentioned that he saw Panarin and Kane talking for 20 or 30 minutes one time after practice, a shocking fact considering how little English Panarin knew at the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The next day after practice I waited for the scrum to leave Kane and asked him if he had time for a few more questions. Kane revealed he'd shared a ride home with Panarin after their recent road trip. And apparently Panarin never shut up.

"He tried to talk English the whole way home and he just kept talkin' and talkin'," Kane said. "Half the stuff you understand and half the stuff you don't."

This is where Kane and Panarin's friendship really took off as Kane realized just how funny his new teammate was. "He's good with the one-liners, that's for sure," Kane said. "Even in English -- it might take you a couple seconds to understand what he's trying to say, but then it makes it even funnier."

• After the Hawks returned from overseas having lost to Philly 4-3 to open the 2019-20 season, I went around the room asking veterans for their most memorable home opener. Kane didn't take the easy way out by mentioning one of the banner-raising ceremonies or the Hawks' 10-1 win over Pittsburgh in 2017.

Instead, he chose his very first home opener, a 4-3 shootout victory over Detroit in 2007. He assisted on a Tuomo Ruutu goal, then played hero after nobody scored in overtime.

"Savvy (coach Denis Savard) ended up calling me to go first," Kane said. "Went down on (Dominik) Hasek and scored. That was like my first goal in the NHL, if you want to call it that.

"So that was a pretty cool home opener for me."

Of course, not every interview with Kane goes perfectly. We've had good conversations and tough ones.

But until he retires, he'll remain a go-to for every reporter who covers the team. And for many of us, that says even more than what he does every night on the ice.

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