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Editor’s Choice: Kane and Toews Show Just How Fast Time Flies

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It’s a ridiculous example, but it’s one that helps tell the story. It was in the EA Sports game NHL ’09, where I distinctly remember thinking the Chicago Blackhawks were going to be better. As a long time fan of the series, both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were these young kids already clocking in with ratings in the mid 80’s. EA did their due diligence.

A season later, Kane was on the cover and nine months after that release they were Stanley Cup champions. In 2011, it was. Toews gracing the cover. As one went–the other followed.

EA knew what everyone else did–they were young rising stars and both had long, successful careers ahead of them. The video game producer saw they were a package deal. Kane on the cover one year followed by Toews in the next.

It would be a pattern that would follow for over a decade.

The Blackhawks Duo Takes Chicago by Storm

Both would collect another Stanley Cup in 2013, and then a season later, sign equal eight-year, $84M deals. A season after putting pen to paper, they’d win their third Cup in six years.

It made sense. Whether it was television commercials dodging Chevys on ice, scoring power play goals, or finishing 1-2 in Calder voting for the league’s best rookie, when a Blackhawks fan heard Kane, Toews seemed the appropriate word after.

And vice versa.

Toews and Kane were akin to the 90’s Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen–two different players but together forming a duo that led Chicago to championships. For a generation of hockey fans, sweaters with 88 and 19 were everywhere, worn by young and old alike. As the Blackhawks skated around the United Center, hoisting the Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938, not one person would guess it would be the final time for either of them.

They were a dynasty. A dynamic duo that along with the core, had at least one more championship–if not a couple more–in them.

But as quickly as it was there–it suddenly was gone.

Time Marches On

As fresh faced teenagers coming into the league together, it sure felt like they’d be kids forever. But as any parent can attest, kids grow up and they do it in the blink of an eye. It’s a tired cliche, but one that rings true. It applies to sports, too, and as a new era dawns with 17-year-old Connor Bedard, the same hope that once adorned Kane and Toews now surrounds him.

That hope reached fever pitch in 2010 when Kane potted the game winning goal to capture Chicago’s first Cup in 49 years. It was bookended by the celebration in Chicago five years later. And then, it slowly faded. Consecutive first-round exits in 2016 and 2017. Missed opportunities in 2018 and 2019. A last gasp in the playoff bubble in 2020.

The once inseparable duo both in success and the collective fan’s mind was suddenly solo. Toews would step away from the sport due to his health in 2021. By the time he returned, the Blackhawks were in a full rebuild. Before long, trade rumors swirled around both. In 2023, Toews missed a couple months again because of his health. When he returned, Kane had been dealt to New York.

Toews took his final lap in April, and Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson made it clear that winning the lottery wouldn’t change the team’s path. Kane and Toews were a fixture of the past, and not in the plans for the future.

Some said it was harsh. But it made sense. Much like Kane and Toews had room to grow as leaders together, so too would Bedard and a new core.

But it didn’t make it easier for some fans to digest. Watching those “kids” grow into champions–they were supposed to retire Blackhawks. They were the Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull for a new generation. Or a Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte or Chris Chelios. But even Roenick and Chelios were traded away. Like Kane, Hull bet on himself when the Blackhawks didn’t express interest, and jumped to the WHA. Mikita finally retired after chronic back pain forced him out.

Ironically, they’re both on their own path now, Toews not even listed as a free agent while Kane will wait and see who’s trending toward the Cup in December.

But it’s the natural progression of a sports career, though maybe not the storybook one fans would have liked. It’s a reminder that sports careers, like life, go quickly. One second the star player is walking across the stage, tugging a jersey over the head before slipping the cap on. The next he’s waxing poetic about a wonderful career.

Make no mistake about it, Kane and Toews’ numbers will hang in the rafters. They’ll likely sign one-day contracts to officially retire Blackhawks.

If there’s any takeaway, it’s to marvel at how great it was and how fast it went. Imagine if Bedard is as good as he’s projected to be.

But the lesson? To enjoy every second of it.

The kids sure grow up quickly.

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