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Can Patrick Kane play to age 40? History doesn’t like his chances

The Blackhawks star recently told the Sun-Times’ Steve Greenberg that he believes he can play until he’s 40. That would put Kane into an even rarer crowd than he already is.

Patrick Kane is adamant in his belief that he can play until age 40. That goal is feasibly reachable, but nonetheless unlikely.
AP Photos

Patrick Kane’s incredible combination of durability and productivity this far into his NHL career places him in a rare crowd.

A lonely crowd, actually.

Kane has missed just one game over the past four seasons, his ninth through 12th in the league. In the same time period, he’s topped the 100-point plateau twice. In fact, no player in hockey history has ever before played at least 327 games and scored at least 381 points in the four-year span from age 27 to age 30 — until now.

But we already knew Kane was a special player, and those aforementioned criteria are pretty specific. It may not be entirely shocking that he’s blazing new ground in that trivial regard.

What would certainly be an even more incredible accomplishment would be if Kane can keep this up for another decade. He wouldn’t be the only one to play until age 40 — but he would join a legendary, and perhaps surprisingly exclusive, group.

The recent-day existence of ironmen Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton and Teemu Selanne has somewhat distorted hockey fans’ perception of the rarified 40-year-old plateau. In fact, only 32 forwards in NHL history have ever reached it.

And of those, only 24 played 40 or more games in their 40-year-old season, and only 12 scored 40 or more points.

So when Kane unleashes eye-opening quotes like he recently did to Steve Greenberg — “I think I can play [to 40] with a really successful style of play, the way I play, and still produce” — he best realize it will bring upon him some scrutiny.

History doesn’t favor his odds of making it there, although Kane surely understands that.

We can loosen the tight parameters from this article’s lede to create a bit more of a sample size (as in, more than just Kane, whose data points wouldn’t exactly shed any light in this study). Seventeen forwards in NHL history have played at least 300 games and scored at least 350 points between ages 27 and 30.

Their average age of eventual retirement, however, was 37.2. Only four made it to age 40: Thornton, Selanne, Dave Andreychuk and Adam Oates.

Kane’s chances are buoyed slightly by modern science’s ever-improving understanding of fitness and nutrition. As the youngest by a significant margin in that entourage, his odds of making it to 40 may indeed be higher than the 4-in-17 chance the sample indicates.

On the other hand, he also has more miles on his 30-year-old skates than many 30-year-old players of the past. Kane has made 903 regular-season appearances to date, making him one of only 19 forwards in league history — not even placing a minimum on point production — to hit the 900-game milestone by age 30.

That sample lends strikingly similar conclusions as the previous one. The average age of retirement was 37.3, and again, just four made it to age 40: Thornton, Patrick Marleau (assuming he signs with a team for this coming season), Ron Francis and Steve Yzerman.

The fact that Thornton and Marleau have done so, though, is probably a feather in Kane’s visor. The Sharks’ longtime forward duo is a close comparable to Kane and Toews in Chicago today — and both of them have now made it to the big four-oh.

Regardless, at least one thing is clear:

We’ll have an answer by 2029.