The National Hockey League has seen a player at every position win the Hart Trophy for Most Valuable Player. As for nationalities, we’ve seen Canadian-born players hold the franchise on the award until Sergei Federov in 1994.
Since then, there have been players born in Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Sweden. There has been one glaring exception…no American-born player has ever won the Award.
Not Chris Chelios. Not Pat LaFontaine. Not Mike Modano. Nobody.
Until, maybe…just maybe…this season.
The NHL named Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Patrick Kane their “First Star”for the week ending February 10. If there’s been one thing hotter than the Chicago Blackhawks in the first quarter of the season, it’s been Kane. He’s playing the game at a level he’s never aproached before. That includes the 2010 playoffs, when he racked up 28 points in 22 games, including the last point of the year – the Stanley Cup winning goal.
The Blackhawks’ torrid start is due in no small part to Kane’s 19 points (9G, 10A) over the first 12 games. Both Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are averaging a point a game as well, but Kane’s clearly playing in the stratosphere.
Should we be surprised that he hit this level? Kane has become as well-known for his off-ice activities as what he’s accomplished on the ice. This is currently his sixth season in the NHL. So why after five years has he suddenly gotten his act together?
He said this summer that he was going to dedicate himself to his profession. We’ve seen him be contrite before though. Then you look at his birth certificate…he’s still only 24. How many of us had our young and stupid days? I’ll tell you – all of us did. And we managed to be a lot dumber than Kane has been on a much smaller budget. The big difference is that we didn’t have twenty thousand people paying to see us do whatever it was to replenish our drinking budget.
So now he’s pulled it together. He’s playing for pride, he’s playing for vindication. Now he might be playing for history.
If the Blackhawks manage to keep their lead for the President’s Trophy, the case for Kane as the Hart winner will be a compelling one. While Toews is clearly the heart and soul of the Chicago Blackhawks, Kane is the electricity.
Modern statistics can quantify an awful lot in hockey. And by all statistical measure, Kane is having a stupendous season. But when you have the pleasure and privilege of watching him play hockey on a nightly basis, you see something that can’t be measured…Kane always wants the puck. He wants to make the play or score the goal, but he wants to be the one who makes it happen. There are times in the past when he’s worked too hard to try making a pretty pass when there’s an opportunity to shoot. This year, he seems to be right on cue. He’s scored big goals when they’ve been needed, and he’s been hitting the open man at the right moment – his beautiful spin-o-rama pass to Hossa to win in Dallas was the best example of this.
Not only is Kane very visible on the NHL’s scoring leaderboard, but he’s constantly in the highlight reel of the hottest team in hockey.
And Hart voters are watching.
About the Author: Spent my formative years breathing in the rarified air of the second balcony at Chicago Stadium. Refined my flair for colorful euphemisms in the blue seats at Madison Square Garden. Now a curmudgeon in the 300 level in the United Center. My musings can also be found at Hockeenight.com...and yes, I muse.