TORONTO – When Pat and Donna Kane went out to buy hockey video games for their son, he used to make it easy for them to find in the store by telling them who was on the cover.
The Kanes will have no problem come September. Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is the North America cover athlete for EA Sports’ made-in-Burnaby “NHL 10.”
“For Patrick, growing up and playing this game his whole life and then to be on the cover, he is so excited about this, it’s not funny,” Pat Kane said Monday as his 20-year-old son was swarmed by cameras at an EA Sports news conference. “And the greatest thing about is that he’s a kid and the kid’s coming out of him on something like this.”
“That’s all he did when he was younger in the summer, is go down (to the basement) and play a few games,” Donna added.
“This is great for him, because it’s something he cherished growing up and he still enjoys doing.”
Generously listed by the Hawks at five foot 10 and 175 pounds, the boyish Kane is in good company. He follows in the footsteps of Calgary defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who was on the 2009 EA cover. Other players to be featured on the EA game include Eric Staal, Alexander Ovechkin, Vincent Lecavalier, Marcus Naslund, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Mario Lemieux, Owen Nolan, Chris Pronger, Eric Lindros, Peter Forsberg and John Vanbiesbrouck.
Kane and Vanbiesbrouck are the only American-born players to grace the NHL game cover. Kane is also the youngest cover athlete.
Ovechkin will also be on the cover of the rival 2K Sports “NHL 2K10” game this fall.
Kane, a stylish playmaker who went first overall in the 2007 NHL draft and won top rookie honours in 2008, is an avid gamer who says he has playing the EA game since he was 10. He remembers creating himself as a player back then.
“It’s pretty special for me to be on the cover,” he said. “I remember looking back at guys like Iginla (“NHL 2003”), Forsberg (“NHL 98”), Pronger (“NHL 2000”), guys like that that you really looked up to and saw them on the cover.
“And maybe one day you’re dreaming that maybe you could be on the cover. There’s tons of kids that dream like that, millions of kids that dream like that and not many kids that it happens to. There’s players that get drafted, play in the NHL but not many of them have this honour to get on the cover of the game like this.”
EA has also signed on top draft prospect John Tavares as a spokesman for the game. Both Kane and Tavares starred in the OHL, and Kane was runner-up to Tavares for the Red Tilson Trophy as league MVP in 2007. The two also share an agent in CAA Sports.
Tavares, the possible top pick in Friday’s NHL entry draft in Montreal, will have to wait until he steps on the ice in the NHL before he actually gets to figure in the game.
“If I get a chance to play in the NHL next year and maybe be in the game, I’m pretty excited about it,” said Tavares. “It’s a game I grew up playing and it was the way I connected to the players and felt I was part of the National Hockey League.”
Growing up a Leafs fan, Tavares used to play as the Leafs in the game or perhaps Team Canada.
As for Kane, he did more than play video games in the family basement. The family set up two nets down there so he could work on his shot. There were also more than a few soccer games in the basement, with Patrick and his youngest sister taking on their other two sisters.
Kane, who had 25 goals and 45 assists in his sophomore NHL season, counts himself as a pretty decent gamer but admitted that the 18-year-old Tavares had beaten him two games to one earlier.
“When I was younger, I was real good,” he said.
He did manage to get the virtual Kane to score on a breakaway Monday.
For Kane, the video game honour is just the latest Kodak moment.
He has already thrown out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game and joined then Hawks coach Denis Savard in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“Obviously it’s only going to last a year but it’s something no one can ever take away from you,” Kane said of his cover duties. “Once you’re on the cover, they can’t take you off. So it’s a pretty cool feeling, right now. I’m going to enjoy it and enjoy playing the game too.”
The EA game is due out Sept. 15 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Washington Capitals centre Nicklas Backstrom will be featured on the cover in Sweden with other athletes for the versions of the game in Denmark, Finland and Switzerland.