Patrick Kane followed the worst offseason of his life with the best regular season of his career. And his goal is to apply the lessons of both to his life on and off the ice moving forward.
“I think it goes without saying that in today’s world, with the social media and everything you’re doing, you almost have to act like there’s a camera on you or someone’s watching you at all times, whether you like it or not,” said Kane, who was named one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy as league MVP on Saturday. “I guess you kind of live and learn from those situations. But at the same time, probably more than ever, you know that all eyes are on you.”
The past 10 months, all eyes were on Kane for two very different reasons. The Blackhawks superstar was accused of sexual assault by a woman in Western New York in early August, and the ensuing investigation lasted three months — well into the hockey season — before the Erie County district attorney decided not to charge him, dismissing the accusation as a “so-called case” that was “rife with reasonable doubt.”
On the ice, Kane had the best season of his illustrious career, making him a heavy favorite to become the first Hawks player to win the Hart Trophy since Stan Mikita won his second straight in 1968 (Bobby Hull won the two before that). He’s also a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award for the most outstanding player, voted on by the players. Kane had 46 goals and 60 assists for 106 points, breaking all the career highs he had set in 2009-10 and becoming the first American-born player to win the scoring title. Finally given consistent linemates after running through 15 in the previous three seasons, Kane combined with rookie Artemi Panarin and center Artem Anisimov to form the league’s most potent trio.
The line carried the sputtering Hawks offense for nearly the entire season.
“It was a great season overall, especially the regular season,” Kane said. “It was a lot of fun teaming up with Anisimov and Panarin, playing with those guys. Personally, I probably would have liked to have had a little more success in the playoffs. … It would have been nice to play a little bit better, but overall it was a good season, and [we’re[ looking to improve on those levels next season.”
Kane, who described hockey as his refuge from his off-ice troubles early in the season, had instant chemistry with Panarin (a Calder Trophy finalist himself), on and off the ice, despite the language barrier.
“I’ve had a lot of fun playing this year,” Kane said. “Maybe throughout the regular season, more fun than any year. Teaming up with those two guys on a line and seeing your chemistry build and scoring goals and being able to control the puck and playing the game the way you want — it was a lot of fun doing that.”
The Hart Trophy was voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season, so the Hawks’ first-round exit won’t factor into the voting. The other two finalists are Dallas’ Jamie Benn and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.
Kane was in the hunt for the scoring title in each of the previous two seasons before injuries derailed him. Now that he’s established himself as the most prolific player in the league, he’s hoping for bigger and better things to come.
“There’s been a trend over the past maybe three, four years where it seems like it’s trending in a good direction on the ice,” Kane said. “I think you always come back and set out to get even better next year. I feel with the linemates I’ll probably be playing with and the chemistry we’ll have, and what we did last year, we’ll expect big things.”