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Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Kane’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team “It’s exciting in Chicago, it’s the first time in a long time that people are expecting a good season out of the Hawks, and that’s a good thing. I feel like we could be a better team than we were last year but we know it’s not going to easy,” said Patrick Sharp, one of the Hawks’ top scorers during 2009-10 training camp.

Expectations are indeed high for a team deemed by many the Western Conference favorite. It began this past weekend in Finland, in a two game split with the Florida Panthers, and debuted in North America with a loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. Despite the inevitable ups and downs of a roller coaster off-season, the Hawks are trendy like Taylor Swift when it comes to picking a Cup participant.blackhawksshow

“They’re warranted, we have some good hockey players here. Going all the way to game five against Detroit opened some eyes and there’s expectations,” said the newly acquired John Madden. There is one Blackhawk who will be under the spotlight more than any other. If Left Wing Patrick Kane is looking for a song to encapsulate his upcoming season, perhaps its 2pac’s “All Eyes on Me.” No player in the Olympics or the NHL will have the spotlight shined as bright upon him this winter. “Kaner” is the face of the franchise, EA Sports NHL ’10 video game, and when February comes, Team USA hockey.

And when the Hawks take to the road, opposing fans will heckle him, worse than Hawks fans heckle any member of the Red Wings. Of course, on the other hand, a lot of people in this country have very short term memories, so if we see a couple “Hatrick Kane” nights early in the season, pretty much everyone will forget what happened in Buffalo on August 9th.

For a more in-depth preview of the forwards click here, goaltending and defensemen go here. For more with Patrick Kane, follow this link.

The Blackhawks open their home slate versus Colorado tonight at 7:30. There will be a special red carpet event on Madison Street from 5:00 to 5:30 P.M. Players will arrive via limousine on Madison Street in front of Gate 3 and will each be introduced before walking down a red carpet and into the United Center. Blackhawks Radio Play-By-Play Announcer John Wiedeman will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event, which attracted thousands of fans last season.  It’s free and open to the public and also features appearances by Blackhawks alumni, executives, broadcasters, Tommy Hawk, the team’s mascot, and the Bud Light Ice Crew.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at:

-the site he founded The Sports Bank.net

-NBA analysis at Walter Football.com

-“Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team It was the biggest, and most unfortunate, news to hit the Chicago Blackhawks in weeks.

“Adam Burish went into the boards on Sunday night in Minnesota and injured his right knee. When a player like him leaves the ice it is always concerning and unfortunately he suffered an ACL tear. He will undergo a reconstruction as soon as possible and we anticipate a complete recovery. His return will take approximately six months,” reads a statement from Chicago Blackhawks Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry.

“I went into the boards goofy. It was one of those goofy plays, I was helpless,” said Burish to a very large crowd of reporters after the team’s practice on Tuesday. Fellow forward Patrick Kane, certainly no stranger to recent heightened publicity, spoke about his fallen teammate:

“Obviously, I know if I was looking forward to the year and something like that happened to me, I’d be devastated, so I’m sure he feels the same way. I talked to him a little bit, it’s tough for him. I’m sure he’s pissed off, and it’s just a bad break, hopefully he can get back as soon as he can.”

Last season’s deep playoff run, coupled with the star power of young goal-scorers such as Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp etc. helped the Blackhawks lead the National Hockey League in average attendance (22,247) per game. In order to duplicate that success at the box office this season, it would help to have their army of high-scoring forwards at full strength.

“They’ll be fine. That’s the least of my worries. It’s such a good and deep team. For training camp, I’m sure if you ask the coaches, they don’t even know who to put in the lineup, there’s so many guys, that won’t be an issue on this team.” Burish is the team’s best enforcer, and according to Chicago Magazine, the city’s 26th most eligible bachelor. Click here to read what he said about hockey groupies at the Fan Convention in July.

And it’s Burish’s sense of humor that keeps the mood light and positive in the locker room. “He’s very good for the locker room, he’s the disc jockey for one, He likes to joke around. Myself personally I really enjoy that, so he’s going to be missed around the locker room more than anything,”

Kane said in describing what Burish’s effect on team chemistry. Kaner also articulated what the team will miss from Burish on-the-ice. “He sacrifices his body for everyone on the team and you can see that when he’s blocking shots, penalty killing, taking hits to make plays, that’s just the way he plays and when you play like that, you’re bound to get hurt sometimes. He’s a great player for us, a key part of the organization and the team, and the fans love him too.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at The Sports Bank, Washington Times, Walter Football.com

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

For the first time since his arrest a week ago, Chicago Blackhawks star right wing, and alleged co-perpetrator of assault Patrick Kane will address the media regarding the “incident” in Buffalo. The 2009 U.S. Olympic Men’s Orientation Camp next week at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois commences Monday morning. Kane is obviously a member of that team, and since there will be a ton of media present…Here’s what the official statement from Team USA reads


“Patrick Kane will make a statement to begin the press conference we have scheduled for Monday at 9:15 a.m. in the media workroom. This will be the only time during the camp that Patrick will address the on-going legal proceedings he is part of in Buffalo.”

It doesn’t say whether Patrick will take questions or not. I’m guessing he won’t. I’m also making a very safe prediction here: his prepared statement will sound like it was poured over by numerous lawyers, image-consultants, public relations professionals etc….So it should be interesting to hear what he has to say. I’ll be there and hopefully tweeting from it. And I’m going to try and do a live post, based on my tweets which you can follow here. This story has certainly created a firestorm on the blogs, and will probably continue generating even more headlines and web traffic as it develops further.

Oh and after the Kane statement, the Director of Team USA Hockey will give an introduction/synopsis of the camp, and they’ll unveil all three versions of their new 2010 Olympic jerseys shortly thereafter.

patrickkane

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

In Kane and Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks possess two young star forwards named Patrick. “Sharpie” the lesser known of the two, is having a much better Western Conference Finals than “Kaner.” Down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings, the Hawks will need both of them, (and more reinforcements) to be on their A game if Chicago is going to stand any chance of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. Sharp is often overshadowed by Kane, the 2008 Calder Memorial Trophy winner and face-of-the-franchise, but it was Sharpie who was on pace to lead the team in goals this season before being sidelined by injury down the stretch.
Kaner is having a rough series, sporting an ugly -7 in the +/- department, and he didn’t even make it onto the score sheet until notching a game 4 assist. Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock talked about how his team shut down Kane.

“Till today we always played Nick (All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom) against him. Today, we didn’t have that option so we just try to play a really good five man unit and limit their touches the best we can. I think Osgood did a good job, but you’re never going to shut a guy like that down totally with the amount of skill level he has. I thought the other night in game three even though he didn’t get on the sheet, I thought that line with Byufglien and Toews dominated the shifts territorally- just couldn’t get the puck in the net,” Babcock saidkane_8x10

As ugly as the 6-1 game four home loss to Detroit was, both young stars have breakout game performances in their recent memory.
Before entering this current slump, Kane recorded his first career hat trick in game 6 of the Western Conference Seminfinals, in eliminating the Vancouver Canucks. After the exciting 7-5 win, Kane told the media the criticisms from Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell fired him up. “I got a wake-up call from old Willie Mitchell over there. He made some comments saying I couldn’t play five on five, I don’t know if you want to fire up a player like that. I scored three goals five-on-five, so you’ll have to ask him about that one,” Kane said.
Friday night, Sharp was the number one star of the conference finals’ game three with two goals, including the overtime game winner. That was pretty exciting to be in the building at that point, I’ve had some double overtime ones in the minors but, it was pretty loud when the puck went in and it was exciting,” Sharp said in describing perhaps the biggest night of his career. Both Patricks will need to have more games like that as Chicago faces elimination.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Heading into 2008-09, the season of Chicago Blackhawks renaissance, it was thought in certain circles that Hawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be on the way out. Tallon was more Bill Wirtz’s guy than he was Rocky Wirtz’s guy. After NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman joined the Hawks organization (pronounced “organ-I-zation” in Canadian English) as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, rumors swirled that Tallon might be replaced by Bowman’s son, assistant GM of Hockey Operations, Stan Bowman.
Today however, Tallon is sitting pretty as the blueprint for success he drafted has guided the Hawks much further along the postseason path than anyone expected. After advancing to their first Conference Final since 1995, (where they’re currently down 2-1 to the Red Wings), Tallon spoke about his team, the youngest in the league, climbing the ladder much faster than expectedtallon

“The sooner the better is fine with me. I don’t want to wait any longer, it’s been fun and I’m proud of these kids, this is the greatest group of kids I’ve been around; on and off the ice,” Tallon said.

Tallon’s first season as GM was tumultuous. After the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to labor issues, a new collective bargaining agreement was signed. This created a new financial structure and many rule changes intended to yield higher scoring games. In response, Tallon reshaped the team, but most of his free agents never panned out and the Hawks finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.

However, since then he turned the Blackhawk franchise around (the Hawks are the only team in the NHL to improve their win total each of the past four years) by drafting young talents Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and also acquiring stars Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg. Tallon recently spoke about the traits possessed by his young nucleus. “Their impeccable character- they’re beyond their years as far as composure and intelligence…they’re way ahead of their time as far the mental aspect of it, their maturity impresses me,” Tallon said before later commenting on his team’s versatility:

“This is a team that can play any style, it you want to play it tough, we’ll play it tough, if you want to play speed, up-tempo, we’ll do that too. I think people underestimate how strong and resilient these kids are.” Chicago’s deep playoff run has been great for hockey ratings on television, and the NHL could certainly use this boost. Perhaps the Blackhawks’ rebirth, led in part by the young stars Dale Tallon drafted, will help improve the league’s damaged Q rating. Tallon spoke about the plethora of current young NHL stars.

“As hockey fans we’re in a great era right now. You see Crosby perform and Ovechkin and Malkin, and you see Backstrom in Washington and everyday we get to see Kane and Toews and don’t forget we’ve got some other young guys in Bolland, Brouwer, and Byfuglien, you can go down the list…we’re very fortunate in this era to be able to witness such young players excel at such a young age,” Tallon stated.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team During the Bill Wirtz era, it was not uncommon for the Chicago Blackhawks to draw less than 5,000 fans for a game. Earlier this decade, they finished dead last in the NHL in attendance. This season however, the Blackhawks set a National Hockey League club record by attracting an average of 21,783 to their 40 home dates at United Center (also, 40,818 filled Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day). It’s fashionable now to be “committed to the Indian.” Supporting the Blackhawks is the new black. On Monday night the Hawks, for the first time in franchise history, welcomed their one millionth fan in a single season (including playoffs) and they did it in style defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-5 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Face of the franchise Patrick Kane (or should I say “Hat trick Kane”) commented on the fanbase. “They’ve been there for us all year, whether it’s the show we’re putting on, they just keep coming back. We put on a good performance on for them. They say Bruce Springsteen’s up next tomorrow, so they say he’ll have trouble putting on the same show we did (chuckles), so it should be pretty fun and we look forward to the next series,” the star winger said. Chicago advances to their first Conference Final since 1995 where they’ll face the winner of Detroit/Anaheim.blackhawksshowEarlier this season, Chicago established a single-season attendance record, hosting 871, 337. The previous high set in 935, 971. GM Dale Tallon spoke about the journey. “It’s been a long time coming for these fans and they’ve been supportive and to do it here in this packed house rocking like this is quite special, so I’m very happy for our players and fans,” Tallon said.
The Blackhawks led the league in attendance and merchandise sales. They have one of the most recognized logos in all of sports. In the 90s, we saw Clark W. Griswold from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies sporting the Hawks jersey, so did Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World.” Now it seems like everyone is, and with the Bulls eliminated from the postseason, both baseball teams struggling through mediocre injury-filled starts to the season and months until the Bears commence, don’t expect this bandwagon to lose any momentum.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team
The rise of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise from obscurity to fan and media darling has been well documented. But there’s another (and even more positive ) story that also needs to be told. As bright as the present currently is, the future looks even better. The team’s leaders are a very young core of players whose best days are likely still in front of them. The most recent player to emerge is speedy left winger Kris Versteeg, one of three finalists for the 2009 Calder Trophy, given out annually to the league’s top rookie. Great at both ends of the ice, Versteeg has the chance to become the ninth Chicago player in team history to be awarded the Calder Trophy and joins teammates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the third Blackhawk in the last two seasons voted a Calder Trophy finalist.

Versteeg led all NHL rookies with 31 assists as part of a youthful nucleus that’s set to meet the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semi-finals. His four shorthanded goals (or “shorties”) were also tops among League rookies and fourth overall. “Playing on this team we’re exciting, we play hard for each other and Kane and Toews, they’ve kind of been through it before and they know what it takes to do it,” Versteeg said.

 (AP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Patrick Kane captured the honor last season. Other past Blackhawks to earn the award are: Mike Karakas (1936), Carl Dahlstrom (1938), Ed Litzenberger (1955), William Hay (1960), Tony Esposito (1970), Steve Larmer (1983) and Ed Belfour (1991). “It’s been huge just to be nominated for it,” Versteeg stated. The winner announced June 18th. The other two finalists for the award:

-Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets. Named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for both November and December, he accomplished a four-game winning streak where he stopped 94 of 95 shots. As Columbus captured the first playoff berth in franchise history, Mason’s 10 shutouts led the League and his 2.29 goals against average was second only to Boston’s Tim Thomas (2.10).

-Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks. The second overall selection in the 2005 Draft, Ryan led all rookies with 31 goals and 57 points in just 64 games. Ryan earned Rookie of the Month honors for January with 11 goals and five assists in 14 games.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

The last time the Chicago Blackhawks won a playoff series was 1996 — a first round triumph over the Calgary Flames. If history repeats itself in 2009, the series MVP could likely be Hawks Center Jonathan Toews, who was 8 years old back then.

He was born the same year the Flames’ home arena, the Pengrowth Saddledome, hosted Winter Olympic hockey in 1988. With 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists), team captain Toews is leading the Hawks in scoring this postseason.

Click here to read this entire post on NBCChicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Now that being a Chicago Blackhawks fan is as trendy now as it was in the 60s during the franchise’s glory days, the team’s marquee players: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and (to a lesser extent) Brian Campbell are all essentially local celebrities. But this team has some other All-Star level talent that you’ve never heard of. They’re currently fourth in the Western Conference despite having no one among the top 40 in the league in scoring- a testament to their depth. Beyond “Kaner,” “Taser,” and “Soupy,” (are you picking up the unofficial hockey player nickname generating formula yet?) these are the names you should know.

Patrick Sharp- “Sharpie,” the team’s leader in goals scored may be the most underrated player on the squad.

Duncan Keith- not to be confused with 90s one-hit wonder Duncan Sheik,versteeg_200 he’s the Hawks other blue-liner with an All-Star appearance on his resume.

Kris Versteeg- Hawks bench boss Joel Quenneville described the NHL’s rookie scoring leader thusly: “He’s a competitive guy that doesn’t get distracted by any of the stuff that goes on during a game: got good quickness, good imagination without the puck.”

Martin Havlat- started slow, but came on in January, when the team badly needed an offensive lift and is now second on the team (behind Kane) in scoring.

Goalie tandem of Cristobal Huet and Nikolai KhabibulinAlthough they tried to shop Khabibulin earlier in the season, the fact that he’s playing solid hockey here now is a warm, fuzzy feeling. When the playoffs come, having both the Bulin Wall and Huet, another goalie the Hawks acquired via a big money free-agent contract, sharing the net will be advantageous over other teams that lack fresh goaltending.

In addition to hosting the NHL’s marquee regular season game (Winter Classic), the Hawks have the premier position in three key off-the-ice criteria. The Indian head was voted the most recognized logo in NHL and the Hawks currently lead the league in attendance and merchandise sales. This shows how much they’ve built the brand. If they go far in the ’09 Stanley Cup playoffs, and later make an annual habit of doing so, the names I mentioned above will be instantly recognizable in this city.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

It’s the midpoint of the second year of the Rocky Wirtz regime, and overall the Chicago Blackhawks are sitting pretty. They’re tied for the third most points in the Western Conference, and this team of promising young stars heads to the NHL all-star break with three players (two of which are not yet legal drinking age) on the Western Conference starting line. And just last month, they achieved a franchise record winning streak.

In the called song “Roxanne,” Sting instructed her to “put on the red light,” which the Hawks have done this season — although not lately — thanks to a much-improved special teams unit. Although they’ve converted a miniscule 4 of their last 42 power play opportunities, they’re still tremendously improved on penalty kill and power play conversion percentage from 2007-08.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane, along with teammate Jonathan Toews, was recently voted to start for the Western Conference in the NHL All-Star Game on the 25th. Together, the two young forwards serve as poster children for a revitalized franchise that leads the league in attendance and merchandise sales and team that is third in the league in scoring. “Kaner” recently answered questions about this banner season on conference call.patrick-kane52

He mentioned fellow Hawks currently flying under the radar. “I would probably have to say Patrick Sharp. With the Blackhawks, you mention names, you always hear about Kane and Toews, Campbell. Duncan Keith goes unnoticed. He is probably one of the biggest underdogs on the team, Sharpy, too. They never seem to get enough recognition, them two. It’s a shame they were not on the All-Star ballot. Duncan made it last year and Sharpy had 36 goals last year and he has 20 already. He’s a great goal scorer and definitely an All-Star in this league. Definitely those two guys are underappreciated,” Kane said.

Although the Hawks have been winning a lot of games lately, they still struggle against their hated rivals, the Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings. Kaner spoke about the Wings’ postseason run last year:

“Guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk; they are so fun to watch. You have a guy like Franzen who is scoring all these goals. It was fun to see a team with so much skill win where in the past it’s been teams like the Ducks who were kind of real physical and had a couple big lines that dominated down low,” Kane said before describing how different his sophomore season in Chicago has been from his rookie year.

“I think last year coming in, you’re just so happy to be in the NHL. Started playing a couple games and you realize the building is empty and you want to do something to try to fill it up. It’s amazing how quickly it’s happened. You look at the team, it’s pretty much been a total 180 from where we were at the beginning of last year. It’s unbelievable. Obviously the credit goes to the players, the management, Dale Tallon, Denis Savard obviously, Joel Quenneville, John McDonough, Rocky Wirtz, guys like that that have really helped turn us around and it’s just fun to be a Blackhawk right now.”

Paul M. Banks is a contributor for The Washington Times and founder of the webzine The Sports Bank.net

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane headed to the locker room with a knee injury during the first period of Tuesday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, but returned to action in the second. January 1, the Blackhawks’ franchise (and perfectly healthy) player will, along with his teammates, host the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field, in NHL Winter Classic 2009. (noon on NBC)

 Earlier this week, “Kaner” answered questions about the outdoor battle with the Wings on conference call. winterclassiclogo

“This year it seems to be really high-scoring and real close games. Both games have gone to a shootout, one was 6-5, another 5-4. That’s what the fans want to see. They want to see a lot of goals and a lot of up-tempo, a lot of skill in the game and two fast teams…Every game against the Red Wings is important, especially when we are trying to chase them right now,” he said regarding the team’s bitter rival.

Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who played in the ’08 Winter Classic gave Kaner some advice about playing in the game. “I think it’s probably going to be a little frustrating out there. The ice is going to be a little different. They are going to have to fix it up a little bit more than you do in a regular game. The game is going to be longer. Sometimes you get cold out there and you’ve got to deal with that too,” Kane said.

Kane will unveil and use personally-designed skates and stick during the Winter Classic. Only 88 skates and 88 sticks were created for this special event and Kane, the only player wearing them, will personally sign and auction off a portion of the limited edition product to raise money for breast Cancer research.

“The skates and stick are the colors of the Blackhawks and should go well with the uniform, but at the same time, it’s a little bit of showtime,” Kane said. “Hopefully when I step out onto the ice, people will say ‘Oh wow, look at the skates Kane’s wearing.’ You know the old saying, ‘Look good, feel good, play good’” Kane said before adding, “It’s really exciting to look at a skate and design it to exactly how you want it to be made. To be able to give back to the community makes the whole experience even more special.”

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Jonathan Toews (pronounced “tay-ves”) was named Blackhawks team captain this past summer, therefore becoming the youngest player in the NHL to currently serve in that capacity and the third youngest player in NHL history to receive that honor. Last season he finished third in Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) voting while teammate Patrick Kane won the award. Toews however, led all NHL rookies in goals. He was second on the Hawks in that category and third on the team in assists.

I spoke with Toews just after a three-star performance that included an assist and a game-winning goal over the powerful Anaheim Ducks. The 4-2 win resulted from a furious comeback in which the Hawks found themselves down 2-1 late in the third period. “I think there’s a lot of games where we’re down in the third, especially thinking back to the game in Toronto where we came back and games like that give you confidence and we knew we could win this game all along with whatever it takes; going to overtime if necessary,” Jonathan said.toews_300

Toews later commented on the superb play of surprising rookie Kris Versteeg, the team’s third leading scorer. “He’s been incredible. Some guys come of the gate hard as a rookie and play their best hockey right away and it then it kind of dies out, but that hasn’t been the case for him. Every single night he’s doing something and he’s proved he belongs at the top with the skill players in the scheme,” Toews proclaimed.

The Blackhawks started their annual circus trip successfully, before going cold and dropping the last three. Toews talked about how big the home win was as they head into a huge road game against their acrimonious rival and division leader, the Detroit Red Wings. “We definitely would have had a sinking feeling if we came up on the short side, didn’t want to lose four in a row. We told ourselves in this locker room that great teams, those that hang in there and make the playoffs at the end of the year can manage those little slides and little tough streaks, so I think we did a good job of battling back,” he said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team 2008 continues to be an eventful and exciting time for the Chicago Blackhawks organization and their fans. Last month Patrick Kane was named NHL Rookie of the Year; the team made a huge splash in free agency by signing All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell, and on July 16th it was announced that the Chicago Blackhawks will host their rival the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in NHL Winter Classic 2009 on New Year’s Day. No two NHL opponents have played more regular-season games against each other, and their 701st meeting will be just the third outdoor game in league history. Also, the first annual fan convention will take place at the Hilton Towers on Michigan Avenue this weekend. Event festivities include autograph and photo sessions with current Blackhawks stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, former stars like Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Tony Esposito, Q&A sessions with current Blackhawks management, broadcasters and alumni, coaches and front office staff detailing their Stanley Cup strategy, exhibitions, interactive games, a live HawkCast (podcast) taping.  $50 weekend convention passes sold out in mere hours. Opening Ceremonies will begin Friday at 5. Saturday festivities run 9 am – 7pm and Sunday 9 am – 2pm.

For more on hockey nerd heaven, I sought the opinion of Stan Bowman, Assistant General Manager, Hockey Operations. Bowman is a frequent guest on “Hawkcast,” the team’s official weekly podcasts, an authority on player scouting and development and even housed Patrick Kane during his rookie year.  His father Scotty Bowman is the all-time winningest head coach in NHL history. In my exclusive interview, Stan Bowman described this weekend’s convention thusly: “In hockey no team has ever done it before and just the reception we’ve gotten from it in that it sold out so quickly and lots of people wanting tickets and people wanting to come see it. It’s going to a good setup for everybody. It’s similar in style and format to the Cubs convention; obviously John McDonough is the one who pioneered the concept back in the early 80s, and it’s taken off to the point where it’s a big event and that’s where the hockey one is going too.”

For the full Bowman interview click here. For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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