CONNECT the dots and it only seems to reason that Evander Kane — named after former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield and the son of a hockey-playing dad and athletically gifted mom — would be developing a killer knockout punch.
The Winnipeg Jets winger now has 12 goals this season, the potential 13th clanged off the post before Bryan Little tucked home the rebound in Thursday’s 1-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, and is transforming into one of the NHL’s most dynamic offensive threats.
But while Kane’s success is built on the typical building blocks of hard work and dedication, there is also a confidence and toughness to his game that could be traced all the way back to the streets of East Preston, N.S., a black community just outside of Dartmouth.
It was there that his father Perry, one of five children whose grandfather was one of 18 kids, first started playing the game. It would take him to the Cole Harbour Scotia Colts and Dartmouth Arrows in the Metro Valley Junior Hockey League and then St. Francis-Xavier University in N.S. before he headed west to Vancouver because — as Evander explained Friday after a Jets’ practice at MTS Iceplex — "he was tired of shovelling snow."
An amateur boxer with skills, Perry worked with Evander from the moment he was first on skates at age three and wanted to hold him out of organized hockey until he was 10 and had mastered his game and developed enough to protect himself.
But his mom, a volleyball and basketball player, signed Evander up when he was eight.
"I’m thankful for her," Kane said with a chuckle, "because she got me in there earlier than he wanted. But it was good. He was my coach in novice and atom."
Now, the more you dive into the background of the Kane family, the more you begin to understand the foundation of his confidence and his skill set.
His uncle Leonard is a member of the Canadian Ball Hockey Hall of Fame. Dwayne Provo, his cousin, played in the CFL for seven years and spent one season with the New England Patriots. And another cousin, Kirk Johnson, boxed for Canada at the 1992 Summer Olympics and later fought John Ruiz for the 2007 World Boxing Association Heavyweight title.
"I’ve got some relatives in my family who were pretty good athletes. My family has always been in sports," said Kane. "My dad is the one that taught me to play hockey and basically made me the player I am. It was good to be able to have those people around, have that family support and have people that know what they’re talking about."
All that said, what Jets fans are seeing now is Kane taking that proverbial ‘next step’ from prospect to star. He had 12 goals as a rookie and 19 last year — good numbers for a kid who made the Thrashers as an 18-year-old — but with a dozen in 24 games this year he’s flashing the talent that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft and the highest-drafted black player in history. "I don’t think a whole lot has changed," Kane said when asked about his torrid start. "I think I’m just executing and doing what I wanted to do a little bit better than I was in the first five or six games. I just want to continue to get better and to grow. Coming into the year I wanted to be more consistent and so far I think I’ve done that for the most part.
"I’m satisfied with how things have gone so far, but I definitely want more."
And it’s that comment — and the next — that should have Jet management beaming. Evander Kane, still working on that knockout punch, wants more. Much more. It’s confidence bordering on cockiness and it comes from the mouth of a young man now just four months into his 20th year on the planet.
"Wanting the pressure and always being counted on to score... I’ve always wanted that since I was a pee wee hockey player," he said. "I like having the puck on my stick. I always feel comfortable when the puck is on my stick because I’m confident in myself.
"This being my third year, it’s a big year for me. I wanted to come in here and make a statement... and continue to make a statement."