Blackhawks prove popular in NHLPA’s 2018 player poll

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Even in a down year for the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane remain highly respected by their peers. | Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks remain one of the most respected teams in the NHL based on the latest NHLPA Player Poll. The union surveyed over 500 players on questions covering a variety of topics including skills, players, and fans, and in many cases, the Hawks showed well even amid a season where they’re in last place.

Blackhawks fans were voted the best in the league, for example, with over 30 percent of the vote. The United Center was also among the popular stadiums to play at with 21.9 percent of the vote, finishing second behind Montreal’s Bell Centre.

Patrick Kane understood the sentiment.

“I think it’s a great sports city and from the time I’ve been here, it’s one of those things where hockey was kind of away for a little bit and we were told if we start winning and doing things right that the fans would come back right away because it was a hockey city,” Kane said of Chicago to reporters Wednesday.

“And we’ve seen that more than anyone could probably imagine since 10 years ago. You look at the number of sellouts we’ve had, how the crowd’s into every game, how they stick with their players through and through and just walking around the city and being a part of the city.”

In the coaches section, Joel Quenneville received the most votes for “Which coach would you most like to play for?” at 16.5 percent. As the blurb notes, that probably shouldn’t be surprising given he’s second all-time in NHL coaching wins and has won three Stanley Cups. “I’m getting too soft,” the coach joked when told of the results Wednesday.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper and Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant were the only two others to receive more than 10 percent of the vote. Clearly Quenneville wouldn’t have a hard time finding a new job if he left Chicago.

“I think in a lot of ways, he’s one of those guys you want to go out and battle for. I think he’s very generous with giving players time away from the rink, and when it’s time to be at the rink, he wants to work and do things quick and get out of here,” Kane said of Quenneville. “Those are all good things. Obviously winning three Stanley Cups and the amount of wins he’s had over his career, he just has a really good feel for the players and how to control things on the bench and how to motivate players. I’m not surprised by that at all.“

Blackhawks fans may also notice that assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, who was hired to replace Mike Kitchen last offseason, received the third-most votes for assistant that should become a head coach. He was the head coach for the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate in 2016-17 before joining the Blackhawks’ coaching staff.

Kane and Jonathan Toews also remain widely respected among their peers. For “Which player is the best role model?” Toews received the second-most votes behind Sidney Crosby. The captain also received the fourth-most votes for favorite player to start a franchise with and second-most votes for “best team player,” so a lot of players would still want to build around him despite his offensive decline in recent seasons.

As for Kane, he was voted third in most difficult player to play against behind Crosby and Connor McDavid and fourth in “If you need to win one game, who is the No. 1 player (any position) you would want on your team?” Crosby won that vote in a blowout with 43.7 percent of the vote, which makes sense considering he might lead the Penguins to a third straight Stanley Cup this season.

Still, it’s apparent from the NHLPA’s players’ poll that the Blackhawks’ key figures and fans remain highly respected in those circles. Toews, Kane, and Quenneville are still titans in the hockey world, and Chicago is a city that a lot of guys would be happy to play in.

“I’m happy to call Chicago home these days,” Kane said.” It’s a great place to play no matter what sport, specifically hockey now with what we’ve done in the past 10 years. The fans keep getting better and better.”

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