Kane and Toews face off

Off the ice, there's no neutral zone for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

Originally Published: December 10, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN The Magazine

Patrick Kane, Jonathan ToewsGregg Segal for ESPNPatrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both 25, are the NHL's version of the Odd Couple.

This is an extended version of a story that appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 23 Interview Issue. Subscribe today!

THE POWER-PLAY partnership of Blackhawks cornerstones Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews has already yielded two Stanley Cup championships and a Conn Smythe Trophy for each -- and they're only 25. But off the ice, there is no neutral zone; the former roommates are hockey's version of The Odd Couple. Toews, who became the franchise's youngest captain at age 20, is the contemplative Canadian. Kane, the first American forward named Stanley Cup playoffs MVP, is the brash Buffalo native. Their chemistry clearly works, but how long can they keep it going? We turned the mic over to Kaner and Jonny and let them face off.


Patrick Kane: Jonny, the last time we played against each other, in the 2010 Olympics, we got into it. I don't know if you remember.

Jonathan Toews: Oh, I remember. Wasn't it inside your blue line, along the far wall? We were just horsing around, weren't we? No?

Kane: I thought it was pretty serious.

Toews: You were worked up.

Kane: That's because you came over and said something. I don't remember why we were chirping back and forth, but it sent me over the edge. Do you envision that happening again if our teams meet in the Olympics [in Sochi]?

Toews: We're probably safer being on opposing teams than we would be playing on the same line or sitting close to each other on the bench.

Kane: That gold-medal game in Vancouver, even though we were pissed we lost and got silver, was awesome for hockey. Something like 30 million people watched it. Even in the U.S., a game like that can help grow the game.

Toews: I had to sneak around the city [after Canada won]. My family and I went to The Roxy with Brent Seabrook and a couple of other players after the game. We snuck through the back of the bar and went downstairs to the basement. Vince Vaughn and some other Chicago people were there. When we'd try to go upstairs into the crowd, it was just nuts; you couldn't move. Someone ordered a round of 50 shots and started celebrating with tons of random, crazy Canadian fans. It was awesome. If we have a chance to go to [Sochi] I don't really know what to expect. You hear the stories of how different it is to play hockey in Russia. I don't know if you've ever been there, Kaner, but I had the chance to go to Moscow for the World Championships in 2007. It's a whole different experience. You never know if it's going to be like that -- or if the athletes will be sheltered away from things. But Sochi looks beautiful.

Kane: You hear that Sochi is really nice, but that where the families are staying could be an hour and a half away from where the players are staying. It seems like it's going to be a lot different than Vancouver. You might look back to Vancouver and say that was the first time you got to play in the Olympics and it was almost like you were spoiled there. It was so nice, everything was set up awesome. You could almost walk to see your parents and family. It's always cool to go to different places and see what's really out there in the world. It would be great to get that opportunity.

Toews: Who drank more beer or champagne out of the Cup in 2010 and 2013 combined -- me or you?

Kane: Are you trying to make me look worse or better here?

Toews: You can say me.

Kane: Well, as the captain, you had two days with the Cup.

Toews: Yeah, I logged a few more hours with it -- and I took advantage of it. OK, how about this: Who did more community work or kissed more babies with the Cup? I'm trying to rebuild your image here.

Kane: That's good. I did charity events with the Cup all the time. What else did you do during the offseason?

Toews: I just went fishing, boating, hung out at my cabin at the lake. My buddies saw pictures of your jet skis and boats, and now they're always asking if mine are as sweet as yours. They'd rather go party with you because you've got the big shack and the swimming pool with no deep end.

Toews: Which teammate would you let date one of your sisters?

Kane: A couple of years ago I might have said you.

Toews: But not anymore?

Kane: Not anymore. There are some guys you definitely would not want dating your sister -- especially hockey players. I'd have to go with Nick Leddy though. He's the nicest guy in the world.

Toews: Nicest ever.

Kane: He's a really nice, shy kid.

Toews: He's undercover, though. Be careful with that.

Kane: People ask if you and I ever fought off the ice.

Toews: Are you kidding me?

Kane: We were roommates for five years. There were certainly times when we weren't happy with one another, but I think that's natural. You spend enough time with someone, you're going to have your run-ins.

You look at our team, and the better question would be, Why couldn't we keep winning and have good year after good year?

-- Patrick Kane

Toews: Can I tell the Toronto story?

Kane: [Laughs] That's the one I don't want you to bring up.

Toews: C'mon! It's funny ... now. We were just getting to know each other. It's the night before one of our first games in Canada as rookies. We're in Toronto and the game's going to be on "Hockey Night in Canada," so I'm in bed early. Probably 10 o'clock. I'm nervous thinking about the game, but you're out having a late dinner or whatever. You come in and start causing a ruckus. Doors slam. People are in the hallway. Five minutes after you lay down, you're passed out and snoring. Now I'm awake, absolutely livid. My blood is just pumping as I lie there awake. Another hour goes by and I can't sleep. It's maybe 1 o'clock in the morning. You're still snoring. I get up and start punching your bed. You wake up and start hitting me with a pillow. I don't know if you remember that.

Kane: Oh, I remember.

Toews: We were so mad at each other that we were going to fight right there in the middle of the night.

Kane: You were so pissed the next morning. Stormed out of the room.

Toews: I felt like s--- after a sleepless night.

Kane: Remember what happened in the game? We were down 3-1 or something, but came back and won 6-4. After the game, you were still pissed off. You said, "Thanks for ruining my game on 'Hockey Night in Canada.'"

Toews: No way I said that.

Kane: I was like, "C'mon."

Toews: I never said that.

Kane: Yeah, you did. For sure.

Toews: Not a chance. You had two points, for god sakes! Lit it up. Led the comeback. I just sat on the bench. Steaming.

Kane: Still steaming from the night before.


Custance: Do you ever discuss your next contracts? Both of your deals expire after the 2014-15 season, but negotiations can start next summer.

Kane: It's funny that people even bring it up now. We just got over the hump of our five-year contract. It's still two years away. I mean, who knows what's going to happen in that amount of time? I'm sure you want to stay here, Jonny. I'd love to stay here, too.

Toews: Are you hinting at who deserves more?

Kane: I'm leaving if you make more. [Laughs.]

Toews: We'll both pretend that we're not bothered by it [if the other makes more]. Look at [Ducks forwards] Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, who both signed for, what, eight more years? It's a debate you can go on and on about: Who is more valuable to their team? There are arguments to be made either way, but if you let ego get in the way, that's when it becomes an issue. You've scored more points and done certain things in your career while I've contributed to the team in other ways. At the end of the day, I don't think we'll be complaining about the situation. We'll both be pretty darn happy if we get a chance to continue the relationship with the team here.

Kane: It's not like I wouldn't pass you the puck because you're making more money than me. [Pittsburgh's Evgeni] Malkin is making more money [in average annual salary] than Sidney Crosby, right? He's signed for less years or whatever it may be. But Crosby has a long-term deal.

Kane: At the end of the day, do you really care? I don't know. What's the difference? You're making a couple hundred thousand more than the next guy.

Toews: Will you ever play in [your hometown of] Buffalo?

Kane: I'm pretty happy here right now. The better question is will you ever play in [your hometown of] Winnipeg? They booed you when we played there.

Toews: Yeah, I got booed in my hometown. So I'm not [signing there] anytime soon. People told me I would get cheered because fans did that for some of the former Jets players, but I never played for the Jets, so I didn't know what to expect. The Winnipeg fans, especially the ones in the top concourse ... they're crazy. So I didn't rule out the possibility that people might jump on that bandwagon and start booing me. My own buddies were probably the ones getting the boos going.

Kane: Winnipeg was a cool place to play. We heard going in that fans there like to boo the other team's top players, so a few times when I had the puck I held on to it a little longer to hear the boos get louder. I used to go to games [growing up] in Buffalo. [Eric] Lindros came to town, and the whole game all the fans were all over him. He got kicked out of the game in the first period. The rest of the game wasn't even fun anymore because he wasn't playing. If anything, the booing is a compliment to that player.


Custance: An NHL team has never repeated in the salary-cap era. What makes you believe the Blackhawks can do it?

One of the questions I get a lot now is, "How do you think Kaner has matured? He just seems to be more composed a guy off the ice and it's showing in his play." I tell you, that stumps me every time.

-- Jonathan Toews

Toews: We have the same team, pretty much, except for a couple of guys. When you go to the Stanley Cup finals and you win, a lot of players step up to the occasion. Guys like Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford made names for themselves [in the playoffs]. Of course they're going to deserve a little bit more financially. So it's always tough -- especially in a salary-cap sport -- for managers and owners to keep their talent together when that happens.

Kane: You look at our team, and the better question would be, Why couldn't we keep winning and have good year after good year? We have a lot of guys locked up for a long time. Like last year, we would be tough to beat in a seven-game series where a team has to go through us four times. As long as we don't get satisfied or complacent, we could have a pretty good winning atmosphere here for awhile.

Toews: Do you remember the first time we played on the same team, the Junior Flyers?

Kane: Yeah. When we were what, 13?

Toews: Glory days. Your good buddy -- one of the biggest loudmouths I've ever met -- was the goalie. Never stopped talking. Kaner, you were the opposite. Same way you are now ... seemingly quiet but definitely confident. You just walked into the [dressing room] wearing your flip-flops, put your bag down and slowly put on your gear. Then you'd just go onto the ice. I was used to being the top scorer on the team. Then you came along and started beating me in points every single game. I was like, "How does this little guy go out there and do that?"

Kane: A year or two earlier we had played your Winnipeg team. We beat you guys by a couple of goals, but everyone was like, "Who's this Toews kid? We have to get him on our team." We'd try to get all the best players from the Detroit area, the Buffalo area, the Toronto area. We started branching out and they brought you in for that tournament. Everyone was amazed. You were pretty much the same player that you are today. Two-way center, same stride. Low to the ice.

Toews: One of the questions I get a lot now is, "How do you think Kaner has matured? He just seems to be more composed a guy off the ice and it's showing in his play." I tell you, that stumps me every time.

Kane: I'll read articles about myself, and they always have to go back to what happened off the ice. The media likes to ask me, "Are you more focused this year? Are you more mature?" That question ticks me off because what happened in the past seems like long ago. I'm not that person anymore. I'm sure there's something I've changed here and there. At the same time, I do still feel like the same person.

Toews: It's storylines. Fairy tales.

Kane: I'm not mature, though. [Laughs.]

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