Blackhawks star Patrick Kane growing up

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane tries to balance the puck on his stick during practice in Chicago,...

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane tries to balance the puck on his stick during practice in Chicago, June 21, 2013. (JEFF HAYNES/Reuters)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

CHICAGO - Patrick Kane watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals Thursday night and came away with a realization that too often is lost on athlete's in the moment.

"I was seeing how much fun them guys were having," said Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks leading scorer in the playoffs and the regular season. "It makes you appreciate what you're a part of and what you're going through.

"I think the process is the best part. You think winning, winning, winning, so much that you don't get to enjoy it. I think a lot of guys are having fun being part of it. We have to have more fun."

Now that sounds like the young Kane of old, the youngster who would find himself in the headlines on occasion, but it wasn't meant that way. The erstwhile punk is growing up before our eyes. He understands more, sees more, and has grown into one of the better forwards in all of hockey.

Even if that growing up story has grown a little old to teammate Patrick Sharp.

"I think that's something that's kind of getting blown up," said Sharpe. "I haven't seen a lot of change in him, to be honest with you. Obviously the off-ice incidents that got a lot of attention weren't there this year.

"He's the same kid, hockey wise. The thing people don't realize about him is how much he cares about the game. How much he knows about every player in the league and the commitment to it away from the rink.

"It's nice to see him getting some credit for that."

Sharpe calls him a real professional, which hasn't exactly been the reputation. Kane is only 24 and this is his sixth big league season, his second shot at the Stanley Cup. He scored the Cup winning goal in 2010 and leads the Hawks in points in the playoffs and led them in scoring during the season -- the first time he's been as high as fifth in the National Hockey League in scoring. And often Kane is referred to as the team's most valuable player on the Chicago team by its most valuable player, captain Jonathan Toews.

For his part, Kane thinks he has another level he can get to as a player, a level that Duncan Keith believes he has already attained.

"I remember him coming in and seeing good he was offensively and the first few years all he wanted to do was score," said Keith. "Now as the seasons have gone on, you get a sense he wants more and he wants more to be known as a complete player. You see him backchecking a lot. He's getting like (Marian) Hossa and (Pavel) Datsyuk and those type of players. It's impressive."

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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