TORONTO — John McDonough presented a Stanley Cup ring to the Hockey Hall of Fame for a third time on Friday, and his timing couldn’t have been better. The Blackhawks are the hottest team in the league, having won nine straight heading into tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. They’ve caught the first-place Dallas Stars and Patrick Kane is the league’s leading scorer and leading candidate to win the Hart Trophy.
It was a far happier setting than the last time McDonough spoke to reporters, back at the start of training camp at Notre Dame, with Kane embroiled in a police investigation into a sexual assault allegation. The Hawks stood by Kane, and were harshly criticized by many for their handling of the situation. But with Kane cleared and dominating headlines for his on-ice play, McDonough insisted he doesn’t feel vindicated.
“I’m just very happy for him,” McDonough said. “I’m glad that he got off to such a great start and he’s continued to do that and [he’s] focusing on hockey. It tells you how committed he is. But no, I don’t think there’s any sense of vindication at all. I think he’s just kind of reached another level of his career.”
As Stan Bowman did back in November, McDonough stated very clearly that Kane — who is just 27 and who is in the first year of an eight-year, $84-million contract — is still very much in the Hawks’ long-term plans.
“Oh, absolutely, absolutely,” he said. “It’s kind of fun to watch him perform, watch [Jonathan Toews] perform, watch all of our core guys and our other guys perform. But he’s done some amazing things this year. And I think he’s right now getting close to, or at the top of, his game. But every night you see something new from Patrick, it’s very magical.”
McDonough didn’t think the tumultuous summer served as a “wakeup call” for Kane, either.
“Well, he’s performed at a pretty high level all the way through his career,” McDonough said. “So I don’t think it was so much of a wakeup call other than the fact that we just needed to move on. We needed to move on this summer, and I think we talked about that, and I think he’s in a very good place right now — as is the organization.”