In 2007, neither Patrick Kane nor Jonathan Toews knew how their paths would play out. They were just kids whose hockey futures were an open, unwritten book.
“I think we were just too young and stupid to know any better, to be honest with you,” Kane said. “We were just excited to play hockey and try to help the team as much as possible.”
Added Toews: “We were a little naïve to some situations, but I mean, you room with someone for five or six years, there are bound to be some battles in there.”
They might not be roommates anymore, but Toews and Kane — a pairing as synonymous with Chicago Blackhawks legend as “Mikita and Hull” — will play their 1,000th game together Sunday at the United Center.
The opponent, the New York Rangers, and the outcome, to be determined, are almost parenthetical.
The night will be about celebrating a union that has produced three Stanley Cups, 10 postseason berths and a host of individual awards and accolades.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Kane said. “I mean, 1,000 games, that’s a lot of games together. It’s been a good ride.”
Kane, the first pick in the 2007 draft, was the cocky future superstar. Toews, the third pick in 2006, became known as “Captain Serious.”
Through 15 seasons together, Kane says Toews has mellowed and Toews says Kane has become more modest and deferential.
“He was a lot more serious in his first few years,” Kane said. “He still has that serious element to him, but I don’t think he takes himself as serious now. He’s able to laugh at himself a little bit.”
Toews chuckled when asked what a young Kane was like.
“Well, I’ll say this: There were moments where I was envious of his confidence and wasn’t sure where he got it from sometimes,” Toews said. “But he was one of those guys, he had a lot of confidence in his game and who he was off the ice as well.
“Believe it or not, (Kane’s) just down to earth (now), but he’s focused on the game and just very real and very humble with who he is. We both probably matured in a lot of ways and stayed immature in some ways, I’m sure. But it’s been fun to grow up together as Blackhawks.”
That journey started on Oct. 10, 2007.
Kane had made his NHL debut two games earlier, and it was Toews’ turn to make his debut against the San Jose Sharks.
Denis Savard was the coach — Joel Quenneville wouldn’t take over until the next season. A mere 10,122 attended the game at the United Center — a far cry from the 21,000 that became routine when Kane and Toews would be packing the house.
Toews centered a line with Kane and Tuomo Ruutu, and Toews scored his first career goal in the first period, assisted by Brent Seabrook and, of course, Kane.
A partnership was born.
“We came in together as rookies and I think at least for me, anyway, really leaned on him,” Kane said. “We roomed together for five or six years — a couple of battles in there — but mostly good times and just grew up together.
“It’s crazy it’s been 1,000 games but obviously he’s meant a lot to the franchise and the teams over the years with his leadership and being the captain and the way he drives the team too. It’s been a pleasure to play with him that long.”
Added Toews: “You’re kind of brash and a little bit full of yourself but you have to have that to believe you can play at this level and to have an impact early in your career the way the two of us did.
“Having a coach like Denis Savard, we got a lot of opportunities to just go out there and grow at our own pace as players.”
It didn’t take long to develop a shorthand with each other.
“Just kind of developed that chemistry right away,” Kane said. “He was so good at playing both ends of the ice, that made it easy on me to just get the puck and make plays when I got it.”
Naturally, they would butt heads too. Asked if they’ve gotten on each other’s nerves at times, Kane laughed.
“Oh, for sure,” he said. “There’s been plenty of battles over the years, on and off the ice. But I think more good things than not.”
Toews remembered occasions when Kane “sees you and sometimes he just chooses not to pass to you, so you’ve got to call him out once in a while.”
Toews has compared the relationship to a marriage on more than one occasion.
“There’s definitely moments where it was an old married couple, especially when we played on the same line quite a bit, there’s that healthy competitiveness we had toward each other,” he said. “But at the same time we made each other a lot better and we helped each other on the ice.”
But they learned from each other.
“We were pretty opposite as people to be honest with you,” Kane said. “Just being around each other, even just having the inner competition (brought out their best). … Especially when we got moved to different lines. If the third line scored, I wanted to go out there and score as well, and I’m sure it was the same vice versa.”
The years held triumphs and travails together and individually.
They first hoisted the Cup in 2010, when Toews was 22 and Kane 21. Two more would follow in 2013 and ‘15.
“It obviously got exciting when the building started filling up and we started winning games,” Kane said. “Even toward the end of my rookie season, kind of making a push to the playoffs.
“The next year, the city was just on fire and all about the Blackhawks, and it was really fun to grow up that way.”
Kane won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2008, the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP in 2013 and the Hart (MVP) in 2015-16. Toews won the Conn Smythe in 2010, Selke (defensive forward) in 2013 and Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award in 2015.
They shared adversity too.
Injuries at various times robbed them of potential games together. Kane had surgery on a broken left clavicle in February 2015; Toews missed the entire pandemic season of 2020-21 with an immune disorder and a likely bout with COVID-19.
They’ve lasted through five coaches together: Savard, Quenneville, Jeremy Colliton, interim coach Derek King and now Luke Richardson.
With Duncan Keith’s trade to the Edmonton Oilers in July 2021, Toews and Kane became the last two Hawks remaining from that first season.
Chicago Tribune Sports
A daily sports newsletter delivered to your inbox for your morning commute.
Then-teammate Yanic Perreault is now the Hawks’ faceoff consultant. Patrick Sharp provides commentary on television broadcasts.
But Kane and Toews don’t need reminders about the passage of time. It’s affirmed every time they climb the ranks on Hawks all-time lists or reach their personal “thousand” marks — points or games.
Milestones have become routine, but they might not have many more together. Both are 34 and in the final year of their contracts, and speculation persists that one or both may seek a trade to a contender.
“Maybe (feels like) 2,000,” Kane said. “It’s gone by fast.”
Added Toews: “I’d agree with that statement. I guess moments where you think of memories or you see a clip from years past and it looks like it’s from another era almost, but at the same time, it’s almost Christmas already and it’s another year where it’s flying by.
“That’s the thing: You have to try and slow things down and appreciate and not take things for granted even though you’re so much in a rhythm. It’s been pretty special to share the ride and be a Blackhawk for as long as I have and have done it with Kaner the whole time.
“We’re both pretty thankful for everything that’s happened.”