Patrick Sharp & Patrick Kane Talk Hockey
by j.p. anderson
In the five years that Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane have been playing hockey together in Chicago, the Blackhawks have won two NHL championships. Of course, this 31-year-old and 24-year-old, respectively, are just two of the incredibly talented players taking the ice for the Hawks—think Bickell, Hossa, Toews, and Seabrook—but there’s no denying that the pair’s easy chemistry has been a major factor in the team’s success. Now, in an exclusive interview with Michigan Avenue as they join the rest of their Blackhawks teammates in kicking off the 2013–2014 season, Sharp and Kane reflect on Stanley Cup glory, the joys of playing for Chicago, and their rapport both on and off the ice.
How did you both get started playing hockey?
PATRICK SHARP: I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a small town in Canada. Everybody there played hockey growing up. I have an older brother who’s three years older than me; I was just following in his footsteps and did whatever he did, so I got into hockey at a young age and fell in love with it early.
PATRICK KANE: When I was growing up my dad was big into the [Buffalo] Sabres, and he would take me to the games when I was 3, 4 years old—he carried me into the games, and I would sit on his lap and just watch everything unfold. Just following the Sabres, I fell in love with the game. I started skating when I was 6 and playing when I was 7.
Is there a hockey moment from back then that sticks out in your mind—a goal you scored or a particular game you won?
PS: I lived in Calgary, Alberta, when I was 8 years old, and we had season tickets to the Calgary Flames. They won the Stanley Cup in 1989, and that was a big moment for our family and the city of Calgary—that was where it got exciting for me.
PK: When I was about 10 or 11, my dad had me playing on six or seven hockey teams. [I remember being] in the back of the car getting ready for my next game, having all my jerseys with me, and needing to ask my dad which jersey I was supposed to wear because I played on so many teams.
When did you realize that playing hockey wasn’t just something you enjoyed, but that you wanted to make your career?
PK: For me that point came when I was 14 years old. I was going into high school, and my parents and I thought it would be a good time to pick up my hockey career and move to Detroit. I went to a team called Detroit HoneyBaked, and I got to live out there for the year. There was a former NHL Hall of Famer Pat Verbeek there who I learned a lot from, and it was just a moment where [our thinking was], if you’re going to take hockey seriously, you might as well go all in. It was tough being away from home, but it was pretty interesting.
PS: Around 14 or 15, hockey started getting a little more serious for me—there were kids I knew who were going off and playing in major junior leagues and getting scholarships to universities, and I realized that hockey could be a gateway to something pretty special. I always enjoyed playing it, but [I thought that if I could] get a college education and be fortunate enough to make a living through it afterward, then I’d be pretty lucky.
Who were some of your heroes growing up?
PS: My brother—I wouldn’t call him a hero, but he’s been my role model. I followed him in everything we did: sports, school back home, you name it. As far as hockey, my favorite player was an American, Mike Modano, who played for the Minnesota North Stars, close to my hometown. When I got to the NHL, he knew that he was my favorite player, so I was able to meet him a few times, and he gave me a signed stick and a signed jersey. It was a pretty special moment.
PK: Growing up rooting for the Sabres, I was a fan of Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny in the early ’90s. In the late ’90s, I switched to Dominik Hasek, because he was really the only player the Sabres had that was a Hall of Famer; I think at the time he was the first goalie to win back-to-back MVP awards. It was exciting to watch them; they had a run in the late 1990s that was fun to watch, but it’s funny how that all changes when you’re drafted to a team.
What has life been like since you brought home the Stanley Cup in June?
PS: It’s been a busy summer. We’re lucky enough to have gone through this once before in 2010, but this [time it] seems like it was a lot more events and a lot more to do with the team and with family and friends. I’m back in Chicago excited to get skating with the guys and start up another season.
PK: It’s been really hectic—it seems like the season finished just a couple weeks ago. But I guess that’s the way you want it; you want those short summers and to be able to enjoy the summer and what you accomplished in the past year. You learn a lot from that last time, and you know what to expect from the next year coming in.
How is this Cup victory different from 2010?
PS: You try to soak everything in and really enjoy the experience of winning, but it all just seems like a blur to be honest with you. I think our team was under a little more scrutiny from the year before, with getting eliminated in the first round, so it was nice to be able to go all the way and win it again. I don’t want to say everyone [get] off our back, but I realize there are high expectations. We’re lucky what we have in Chicago with our players, our management, our core guys who are still there—maybe we can make this an ongoing thing and keep [winning].
PK: The difference between the two Cups to me is the first time everything is new—[you’re] living and dying, and with every goal and every win there’s a lot of excitement knowing how close you are to finally winning it. The second time going through it’s still exciting, but there’s more focus on the process, knowing how much hard work you have to put in. But winning never gets old, and it has felt great both times.
Why do you think this team has had such success together?
PS: You have to look at the group of core players we have. How many times [are you going to] have a Kane, [Jonathan] Toews, [Marián] Hossa, [Duncan] Keith, and [Brent] Seabrook? But also the lineup—those are players who want to win, they want to get better, they love the game of hockey, and they’ve had the play-off experience even though it’s still a young group, and they like each other as well. Also, both times we’ve won, it’s been a total team effort, and the depth of our team this year was definitely different.
PK: The familiarity we’ve had with each other from coming in since we were young guys and being with each other and getting to know each other, growing up together—those things usually help what happens on the ice. You can’t really look back at both wins and say one player stole the show; it was a different guy [every night]. That was exciting about going out there and playing, [the thought that] this could be the night it happens for you, or to someone who has your back and can step up and make a play, too.
How did you each spend your day with the Cup?
PK: I actually have mine coming up—I’m going to take it to Niagara Falls, a little restaurant in Buffalo, and then a hockey rink in Buffalo. Some buddies and I will have a little floor hockey game and play for the Cup as a joke, and I’ll just celebrate with my friends and family at night.
PS: I brought it to my hometown, Thunder Bay, did some public events for charity, and just kind of hung out at the lake with my family and let my family and friends enjoy it for the rest of the day.
After all this excitement over the summer, how much of a challenge is it to actually turn your focus to next season?
PS: It’s not that much of a challenge to be honest with you....We’ve got a lot of returning players, and our team is expected to do well again. It feels like we just got off the ice, so I’m excited to get going.
PK: When you start training camp and see the group of guys who are all so serious about winning—once that comes around it shouldn’t be too hard to get started.... you try to get yourself better and get ready for that first game.
What does playing for Chicago mean to you?
PK: I keep saying that it’s the best city in America. It’s the fans—when you’re winning and doing well, they really jump on your back and push you forward, and they’ve been huge to both of our Cup wins. You couldn’t ask for a better city to live in; the support is huge.
PS: Like Kaner said, it’s a great city. I’ve been here for nine years now, and I’ve seen both sides. In 2005–2006, we didn’t get too many fans, but now to see the fan base and the support we get for every game, whether it’s a preseason game or a play-off game—it gets you excited to play all the time in Chicago.
If you had one day to spend in the city, what would you do?
PS: One of the most fun days I had at the end of the season was going out on a friend’s boat on Lake Michigan. Just being on the water and seeing the skyline from that point of view was great.
PK: I was going to say the same thing—going out on the water. It’s fun to experience that. We had a day after we won last time [when] we pretty much had the whole team on different boats tied up and everyone had a great time.
How would you describe your relationship?
PK: I’ve always felt like Sharpie has been a big brother to me, especially coming in as such a young kid [like I did]. He’s a guy who’s always messing around and having a good time, and one thing people probably don’t know is how serious he is about the game. When you see someone like that who has as much expertise as he has taking it so seriously, it makes you want get better as a player, too.
PS: Strictly professional. [Laughs] The same thing Kaner says—I treat him as a little brother. It doesn’t matter if we’re on a 10-game winning streak or a losing streak, coming to the rink I’m always having fun with Kaner, joking around, talking about things we’ve seen in the league or around Chicago. He’s a guy who likes to have a good time, but he’s really dedicated to the sport, and he doesn’t get enough credit for that. I consider him one of my better friends, and I’m glad I can play with him.
You both mentioned the big brother/little brother relationship. Sharp, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve taught Kane?
PS: I haven’t taught him a whole lot—hockey-wise he came in doing things at 18 years old that I still can’t do today. He’s one of those players who’s gifted but also works for everything he has and deserves all this success. One thing I will say about Kaner is that people label him as easygoing and [as someone who’s] goofing around; maybe he’s not as serious as our other star, our captain Jonny [Toews]—Mr. Serious—but Kaner cares about the game, he always tries to get better, and he always wants to do the best he can.
Kane, what have you taught Sharp?
PK: [Laughs] Probably to gel his hair to try to make him better looking for this magazine cover. That was one of the things I was thinking about—I’m going to have my hair trimmed up and make sure I go for a tan or something to look good next to Sharpie. Seriously, whether it’s playing with each other or because of the knowledge of hockey we both have, we’ve always related to each other well.
Do you spend time together off the ice?
PK: When you’re in Chicago, you spend so much time with the team that you try to get away from everyone; but when we’re on the road, we’ll go to dinner. In Chicago going out and about on the town, he’s always the guy I’m looking forward to hanging with.
PS: During the season you don’t get a whole lot of time for socializing, but Kaner is pretty busy in the off-season as well. In 2010 after we won the Stanley Cup, he probably had one of the busiest summers ever. That was the summer I got married and Kaner showed up to the wedding and that was great—my family was excited to see him. He’s fun to hang out with any time of the week.
What is the thing you’ve enjoyed most about your professional hockey career?
PK: The two Stanley Cups. It’s an unbelievable honor, just to celebrate not only yourself but the team that’s worked so hard to achieve it. Having the Cup [myself] for two days with the last time and now this year, you see the attention it attracts and how much more popular that trophy is even than yourself. It really gives you perspective about what an incredible award it is, and it makes you want to keep winning it.
PS: I just appreciate the day-to-day lifestyle of being a pro hockey player. It’s fun to wake up every day and spend time with 25 other guys who are your best friends, and you can laugh and joke and goof around. There’s also the competitive side of it; it’s fun to compete against other teams and leagues—it’s something Kaner and I have wanted to do our whole lives, to play the game professionally, and to be able to do that still is a pretty cool thing.
If you weren’t playing hockey, what do you think you would be doing?
PK: That’s a tough question. My whole life, hockey is what I dedicated everything to, so thank God it worked out. If not, my dad had a car dealership when I was growing up that I would visit all the time, and sometimes on a summer day I would bring down my rubber boots and help him wash the cars and things like that. So maybe I would have become a car salesman.
PS: I tried to get a job at the Kane car dealership, but he wasn’t hiring then. [Laughs] I don’t know—I played a lot of baseball growing up, and I always dreamed of being a center fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, but I’ve got a pretty good respect for what those guys can do. I didn’t really have a backup plan—I wanted to play hockey, and I was going to do everything I could to be a hockey player.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming season?
PS: A couple of things: It’s always fun to get back to the start of the season and see the guys again; and honestly, the first game at the United Center since we won the Stanley Cup will be fun—raising the banner and the whole ceremony that goes with it is something I’m really looking forward to.
PK: Sometimes you look too far ahead, and you plan certain goals, and things don’t go as well for you. I’m just going to try to enjoy the process this year and soak everything in, but at the same time I think we have a group that’s not satisfied and will keep trying to win games. You always want to get off to a hot start personally, and hopefully the team does the same thing.
Photography by jeff crawford, getty images; Styling by Sarah Liebowitz; Grooming by Nicole Cap at Ford Artists; tailoring by Gentleman's Cooperative; Shot on location at Tortoise Club
The official Parade of Boats viewing party for the 106th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.