The City of Chicago may very well be home to the greatest duo in sports history. The Chicago Bulls were the 1990s. They were all of it. The Gulf War wasn’t a thing. Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton? Never heard of them. The 1990s belonged to the Bulls and the Bulls belonged to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Alas, all good things come to an end. Legends come and go. New heroes need to be born. The 2010s brought two new legends to Chicago. They took ownership of the building that Pippen and Jordan built. One from Buffalo and the other from Winnipeg, these two men helped rewrite the history books in Chicago sports. They even added quite a few new decorations to the rafters that Jordan and Pippen once filled.
Those men are Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Drafted consecutively in 2006 and 2007, the two baby-faced teenagers quickly became the faces of the Chicago Blackhawks. They were on magazines, ticket stubs, billboards, everything. The tail end of the 2000s first decade brought the resurgence of Chicago’s hockey team and that team began birthing Chicago’s next dynamic duo.
Now, it is nearly impossible to replicate what Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen brought to the table for Chicago sports fans. However, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have done everything in their power to at least be in the same conversation.
The Blackhawks were the first NHL team to win two Stanley Cups in the salary cap era after winning hockey’s ultimate prize in 2010 and 2013. For good measure, they added another Stanley Cup in 2015 just to rub it in the faces of the rest of the league. Who drove the bus for those Stanley Cup runs? Kane and Toews.
Jonathan Toews won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010, as the playoff MVP. Patrick Kane did the same in 2013. Faces of the franchise show up when it matters most.
Good duos have a little push and pull. You need a little bit of everything. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are quite different personalities. Kane likes to have fun. He’s one of the most flashy players in hockey. Toews, well, he seems to think something bad will happen to him if he cracks a smile.
That first Stanley Cup in 2010 was incredible. The entire city of Chicago was intoxicated and Patrick Kane was leading the charge. The Blackhawks put Kane and Toews on their own bus with the Stanley Cup for the parade. It appeared as if Toews was in full babysitter mode.
Kane had, well, had a few drinks. Some may even say a few too many drinks. That’s debatable, but Toews was on the lookout for his teammate. Then the speeches came. Toews kept his speech professional. Kane, not so much. The entire world knew he had had a few beverages.
Fire and ice. Kane is front and center. He loves the spotlight. He has a flair for the dramatic. He is Showtime. Jonathan Toews is the ultimate leader. He’s serious. He prefers to have his teammates in the spotlight. Together, the two of them are the perfect balance.
When you think of the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are the first two names that come to mind. When you enter the United Center, 75 percent of the people are walking around with either number 88 or number 19 on their back.
When you think of Jordan and Pippen, you picture them on the court together. The funny thing about Kane and Toews is the case that they aren’t on the ice together a whole lot. It happens, but nothing like your prototypical duo.
Joel Quenneville typically liked to put the two stars on separate lines, so as to “spread the wealth.” They did get paired together in extreme circumstances. When the Blackhawks had their backs against the wall, Kane would slide up to Toews’ line. It was coined the “nuclear option” during Quenneville’s run with the Blackhawks. Backs against the wall, Kane and Toews on the same line, the duo always came through. The most famous example of the nuclear option? See below.
Backs against the wall. Game seven in the near future. One last shot to tie the game. Kane makes everything happen as he knifes his way through multiple Bruins. Keith makes a play on the boards. Toews with the dish to Bickell. Tie game. You know the rest of the story. It was the quickest, yet sweetest story in franchise history after Dave Bolland added the cherry on top.
After going down 2-1 in the series to the Bruins, Quenneville threw Kane and Toews on the same line with Bryan Bickell. The Blackhawks were in danger of going down 3-1 in a series for a second time during those playoffs. Overcoming that deficit is challenging enough, twice is nearly impossible.
Goals were tough to come by for the Blackhawks early in the series. Game one went to triple overtime where the Hawks won 4-3. However, in game two, the Blackhawks were held to one goal. They were then shut out in game three, as the series shifted to Boston. Enter Kane and Toews on the same line for game four, and the Blackhawks exploded for six goals.
That series ended in dramatic fashion. After a lockout-shortened season saw the Blackhawks dominate from start to finish, the team faced adversity in the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings nearly sent the Blackhawks home in the second round. The Bruins pushed the Blackhawks as much as any playoff opponent has pushed the Kane and Toews Blackhawks.
But in the end, they prevail. They always found a way. Toews’ leadership. Kane’s knack to always score a big goal. Those were the constants. Two players who wouldn’t let each other fail. They wouldn’t let the team fail.
Sticking with the theme of backs against the wall, how about the series where Toews and Kane willed their team to victory. In 2014, the Blackhawks matched up with their hated rivals, the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis took games one and two to grab a 2-0 series lead.
Game one went to triple OT where St. Louis claimed victory in the marathon. Game two went St Louis’ way, again in overtime. Back-to-back heartbreaks. A lot of teams would fold it up. Not the Blackhawks. Not Kane and Toews.
After winning game three back at home by a score of 2-0, Chicago’s stars then took the series over. Game four went to overtime yet again. Add another notch to the legend of Patrick Kane.
It was a tied series with a big game five looming in St Louis. Big games and the Blackhawks, name a better duo. Under Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks were 32-8 in games 5-7 in a playoff series. During that stretch, nobody else came near that.
So, game five. Patrick Kane played hero in overtime of game four. Game five produced another opportunity for someone else to play hero, as for the fourth time in five games, the Blackhawks and Blues had overtime. How about Jonathan Toews?
The Blues might as well have not even shown up for game six. In fact, they didn’t. The Blackhawks boat-raced St. Louis out of the United Center as they beat them 5-1. That 2014 team was special. They were one goal away from another Stanley Cup. Kane and Toews did their best to get them close.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the most nerve-wracking event in sports. Overtimes don’t allow your heart to beat at a normal pace. Your palms sweat to a disgusting level. However, when Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are on your team, you have confidence. They always come through. They always shut the door on their opponents. See the 2013 Los Angeles Kings as Kane and Toews victims.
It’s not too often you see a 2-on-1 shot from that far out. Those are two guys who are constantly in sync. The pass from Toews is ridiculous. He doesn’t even need to look to the other side of the ice, he knows exactly where Kane is at. The moment that pass landed on Kane’s tape the game was over. Patrick Kane doesn’t miss those opportunities.
There is a moment as the Blackhawks are celebrating the Stanley Cup on the ice in Boston that I’ll never forget. Many people forget that Jonathan Toews was knocked out of game five of that series with what surely looked like a concussion. His status for game six was up in the air all the way to puck drop. The captain showed up.
Not only did he show up, but he took over. With the team trailing in the second period, Toews tied the game as a penalty expired. He had the primary assist on Bickell’s late goal to tie things in the third. It was vintage Jonathan Toews, even though he was likely nowhere near 100 percent.
So, the moment on the ice. Kane and Toews came together for the first time after the time had run out and the Blackhawks were champions. They hugged one another and Kane grabs Toews and says “I love you, Johnny. Way to step up big.”
It was as raw and pure of a moment that we’ve seen captured in sports. Those two had just gone to war for the team, the city of Chicago, and one another. Brothers fight and you can only imagine Kane and Toews have had their spats over the years, but at the end of the day, it’s nothing but love.
They began their relationship as teammates but quickly grew into brothers. While Kane and Toews have played their entire careers as Blackhawks, they have been opponents in international play. The 2010 Winter Olympics saw the two pitted against one another on the world’s biggest stage: The Hockey Gold Medal Game, as Canada faced off with the USA for gold.
Ultimately, Sidney Crosby clinched gold for Team Canada as he beat Ryan Miller in overtime. Jonathan Toews, however, was named the tournament’s top forward. He was also an assistant captain on a team full of All-Stars for Team Canada.
As the handshake line commenced, Kane and Toews, for the first time as opponents, came together. Every camera was focused on it. Toews was on the mountain top. This was one of the biggest moments of his life, and Toews seemed worried for his friend.
While it was euphoria for Toews, it was a bitter end for Kane. Amongst the Team Canada celebration, Jonathan Toews could be found consoling his Blackhawks teammate. That’s brotherhood. No matter the circumstance, they are always there for one another. They faced off yet again in the 2014 Winter Olympics as well, as Chicago had some fun with it.
The same could be said for those Olympics when the same story wrote itself again. Toews and Canada knocked out Kane and America again in the tournament. As Kane was being interviewed and obviously sulking in defeat, Toews didn’t gloat his win. There was no chirping, nothing. He felt for his brother.
The best duos in sports feature athletes with an unbreakable bond. Such is the case with Kane and Toews. Their bond goes beyond the Blackhawks. It goes beyond hockey. They care about one another. Their bond only makes the Blackhawks better.
The Blackhawks of the 2010s were special. There were some truly special players. Future Hall-of-Famer Marian Hossa was here for eight seasons and still gets overshadowed. Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Corey Crawford are all players worthy of having their numbers hang from the rafters of the Madhouse on Madison.
A team that restored the United Center’s nickname by giving fans a reason the blow the roof off of the stadium was littered with star power. However, all of that star power took a back seat to Kane and Toews. They are the face of the Chicago Blackhawks and they will still be the face of the Blackhawks long after their careers end, much like Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
While it is easy to grow frustrated by the current state of the Blackhawks, remember what once was. Remember the memories. Remember the parades, the banner raising ceremonies, and the chills you experienced as it was all happening. Remember how loudly the Madhouse used to rock during those playoff years. Remember all of it and thank Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews one more time for all of it.
Rocky Wirtz gets his fair share of credit for bringing the Blackhawks back to life. A franchise once dead was resurrected. Wirtz surely deserves his fair share of credit for it. As does John McDonough, but none of this happens without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Chicago wouldn’t have seen three Stanley Cups. Not even one. No parades, no banners, no chills. All of that was brought to you by Chicago’s modern-day dynamic duo.
They say you don’t get to pick your family, and such was the case for Kane and Toews. These two came into the league together. They grew into adulthood together. Chosen by then-general manager Dale Tallon, Kane and Toews were paired at the hip from NHL birth. It was a match made in heaven, and Chicago had a front-row seat to the greatest run in Blackhawks history as Kane and Toews led the race.