Kane and Toews at 1,000: Authors of The Great Chicago Resurrection

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Kane and Toews at 1,000: Authors of The Great Chicago Resurrection

Chicago Blackhawks

I grew up cheering for the Blackhawks. It likely won’t surprise you, but I’m a kid of the 1980s, so my heroes as a young kid were Denis Savard, Doug Wilson and Steve Larmer (#retire28). They eventually gave way to Chris Chelios, Dirk Graham, Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte. But once I got out of high school (just months before Cheli was traded to Detroit), the downward spiral was beginning and playing football took my attention away from the ice for a few years.

I still paid attention as I got out of college and went to a few games, but it wasn’t the same as the old barn — or even the United Center in the early days.

In 2006, when the Blackhawks landed a top-three pick and selected a young center from Canada that a lot of people thought highly of, they got my attention again. But he went to college, so the buzz wasn’t in Chicago. Not quite yet.

The following year, for the first time in Blackhawks’ history, the franchise picked first overall. And I became a season ticket holder immediately.

That was also when I started writing about the Blackhawks with some frequency. The young kids joined a young group of players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp and the product on the ice was immediately different. There was dynamic playmaking back on the ice in Chicago, and I was all-in.

In the 15 years since the jumped into the NHL lineup as teenagers, Jonathan Toews has become the longest tenured captain in the history of the franchise. And Patrick Kane has become, in my humble opinion, the greatest American-born player in NHL history.

Two future Hall of Famers, drafted in consecutive years, who lived up to the hype across the board. They’re legends. Icons. And, on Sunday, they will become the 11th pair of skaters to appear in 1,000 regular season games as teammates.

Most Impactful Duo in League History?

I humbly submit here, today, that Toews and Kane are the most impactful duo in the last 25 years in the NHL, if not ever. They will become just the 11th pair to do it together, a remarkable achievement when you consider the long, storied history of the NHL.

A case has been made by more than a few people recently that Alexander Ovechkin has elevated the Washington Capitals more than any player for any team in the history of the Washington DC area. The Capitals joined the NHL in 1974, and this past March Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom became the ninth pair to appear in 1,000 games together. They are one of the two other “active” — and I use that term relatively loosely because of Backstrom’s injury issue — who have reached the benchmark together. (Note: the only other active duo to skate in 1,000 games together are LA’s Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.)

Lots of people similarly talk about the impact of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. They, with Marc-André Fleury and Kris Letang, have been terrific centerpieces for a Penguins franchise over the past 15 years that has three championships. But how quickly fans forget what Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did in the early 1990s when they led the same franchise to back-to-back championships. And Geno just got to 1,000 games earlier this year against the Blackhawks.

Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman have been tremendously impactful in Tampa. They have two championships together. But the Lightning also won a title in 2004. And they’re still a few years away from getting to 1,000 together.

For my money, the only pair of players who reinvented an entire franchise the way Toews and Kane have in Chicago are Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom in Detroit. When the Wings won the first Stanley Cup of their latest golden era in 1996, they ended a 41-year drought. They didn’t appear in 1,000 games together.

Kane and Toews? Then brought an end to 49 years without a championship in Chicago. But they didn’t do it alone… and won’t stand alone on the list of teammates from this Blackhawks’ dynasty who skated together 1,000 times.

Dunc and Seabs were phenomenal, the original building blocks of the dynasty. But without 19 and 88, Marian Hossa doesn’t sign here. Patrick Sharp doesn’t sell thousands of jerseys. Corey Crawford doesn’t tell us we were f***ing right, Chicago! And people may have never learned how to spell Hjalmarsson or Byfuglien.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane authored the resurrection of the Chicago Blackhawks. And, now, as they skate in their 1,000th game together, the roster around them feels an awful lot like the one that was on the ice when I was using my three-year-expired college ID to get into games for pennies to yell at the Bruins and Red Wings with a couple thousand of my friends.

Not since Mikita and Hull have Chicagoans enjoyed two incredible players like this together in the Blackhawks’ sweater. And we’re all hoping it isn’t another 40 years before the Blackhawks win another championship.

I encourage anyone and everyone watching the game on Sunday to take a step back for a moment during this trying season to appreciate what this benchmark means. Not only for these two great players in the history of the league, but in the greater scheme of the history of the franchise.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab