SOCHI, Russia — Well-spoken and seeming totally at ease with the intense media glare, Patrick Kane chatted amiably with reporters Tuesday in Sochi, two days before his United States hockey team was scheduled to open its Olympic tournament against Slovakia.
What a nice young man, you might’ve thought listening to him. Which is worth mentioning, because he hasn’t always left that impression.
Most hockey fans don’t need to be told what we mean by that. Just Google “Deadspin Patrick Kane” if you don’t.
One can never be sure, but those days of youthful indiscretions seem in the past now.
Also in the past is Kane’s first Olympic experience in Vancouver, where four years ago he was part of the U.S. team that won silver, ultimately falling victim to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.
“In 2010, I was kind of young and naive to know what was really going on,” Kane said. “Looking back at that game, I actually watched it for the first time this year, that gold-medal game, just to kind of relive the situation, and see how important it was to the game of hockey.
“I feel I’ve grown a lot and matured a lot, just like any 21-year-old would to being 25 four years later. It was a great experience [in Vancouver], but I think I know a little more this time around.”
Indeed, Kane’s been through a lot in the last four years — both good and, well, not so good — and he’s added some serious credentials to a resume that already included being drafted first overall in 2007. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks now. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in June.
He also enters the Olympics as the NHL’s fifth-leading scorer, with 63 points in 59 games for the ‘Hawks, and will be counted on to produce offense for the American side, along with the likes of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Joe Pavelski.
In Sochi, Kane is looking forward to getting back on the bigger international ice surface, where he thinks the extra time and space he’ll get with the puck will work to his advantage. During the NHL lockout, he played 20 games in Switzerland.
“I’m kind of glad I went through it for this experience now, to know what to expect,” he said. “Different ways I can use it to my advantage. I think anytime you give a player time and space, he should be able to use that to his advantage, and try to make more plays out there.”
While a shot at Olympic redemption is Kane’s ultimate goal in Sochi, he doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead to a possible return to the gold-medal game.
“It’s still a long tournament,” he said. “You still have five, six games to get to that situation. Take one game at a time. Try to get better each game as a team.”