How he got there: Evander Kane

Thinking that the 2006 Western Hockey League (WHL) bantam draft started an hour later than it did, 15-year-old Evander Kane and the rest of his family went about their morning as usual, only to receive a phone call from Evander’s friend, Mark, congratulating him.

Curious, Kane and his sisters went to the WHL website to find that he had been drafted by the Vancouver Giants.

Sheri Kane, his mother, was ecstatic to find that her son had been drafted to their hometown Giants, instead of a team far away in BC, Washington or in one of the other three western provinces, where other WHL teams can be found. A lot of teams in the WHL had called and the Kane family had no idea where Evander was off to.

Just as they started to celebrate, [Evander’s dad] walked back in the door after hearing about the draft results on his car radio on his way to work. He turned around and came back home.

“We wouldn’t have been able to see him much if he had gone to any other city,  so we feel extremely blessed that Vancouver drafted him,” Sheri says.

Each year, the WHL has a draft in late April for their teams to gain some prospects and possible players for the next season. The teams can draft 14- and 15-year-olds from the provinces and states where WHL affiliates are situated.

In 2006, Kane was the Giants’ first round pick, which is something that follows a player around, an attestor to his talent.

Kane has been dedicated to hockey since he was little. He received his first hockey stick when he was two and started ice hockey when he was eight.

He and his dad would go over to the Annex, a sports complex in downtown Vancouver near their house, almost every day and play for hours, rain or shine, under a covered area. Kane’s skills improved and he got a real feel for the game while his dad played commentator to his every move.

“My husband would always commentate as Evander carried the ball and made it so exciting for him that he couldn’t help but love the game,” says Sheri.

Kane even got his younger sister, Bréa, into hockey, often convincing her to put on the goalie gear and go over to their school and play hockey for hours and hours, losing track of time. Sheri would have to walk over to tell them to come home for dinner.

His passion for the game of hockey grew through these experiences and kept him determined to get better.

Since his dad wouldn’t let him play ice hockey until he could skate well, five-year-old Kane would go with his dad to the “Stick and Puck” programs at the ice rinks until he was eight, when Sheri finally signed him up for hockey.

Sheri remembers taking Kane to his first practice. He had gotten pretty good at skating, so she was surprised to see him take a huge spill when he took his first step onto the ice.

Kane turned back to the bench, took off his skate guards, and preceded to complete the drills skillfully, skating smoothly and easily.

“At the first practice, I watched a young child who was so excited to finally play, take the ice…” says Sheri. “The smile on his face and his excitement after that first practice, there was no turning back.”

Hockey wasn’t the only sport Kane played as a child. He was a soccer player from age five to 13 and currently swims and enjoys most sports. He also played the piano until he was in Grade 4 at school.

But nothing else stuck like hockey. “It’s been his every passion and commitment since he was little,” says Sheri. “We are extremely proud of Evander for having such a strong… work ethic for a sport that he loves.”

Ian Walker, Giants beat writer for The Vancouver Sun, agrees with Sheri about Kane’s level of commitment.

“Evander was shy when he first joined the Giants, but that was to be expected of any 15-year-old. Last year, he gained confidence and was more outgoing,” says Walker. “This year, he has really come into his own.”

Walker has watched Kane from the beginning of his WHL career and has seen how he’s grown, won the trust of his coaches and gotten more playing time.

He came in at a hard time for a young player who isn’t used to the league and the style of play of his new team, the WHL playoffs.

The Giants were having a great campaign in the 2006-07 season and, knowing that they had a spot in the Memorial Cup, being the host team, looking to make a run for the Canadian Hockey League trophy and the championship.

Young Kane, with a gap-toothed smile and a bit of a baby face, came into the season late, called up because of an unusual number of injuries to the Giants players.

He played eight games in the regular season, three more than usually allowed by the WHL for 15-year-olds because of the long list of players missing from the Giants bench, said an article from The Sun in 2008.

He didn’t have a huge offensive burst, scoring one goal in his eight games played, but he was able to show why he was drafted as a first round pick.

In the playoffs, Kane didn’t get any points, but he played five games and helped the team go all the way to the Memorial Cup final, where the Giants defeated the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-1.

“[Coach] Don Hay was very smart and put [Kane] in situations that he could excel at, boosting his confidence each time out there [on the ice],” says Walker. “…Playing as a 15-year-old and in [a game] with such high stakes as the playoffs is a big reason that he is the dominating player he is today.”

The following season, Kane played a secondary role with the Giants at first, “but that too soon changed as the season went on and he gained the trust of his coaches,” says Walker.

He improved so much and played so well, getting 41 points (24 goals and 17 assists), he was named the WHL’s Western Conference nominee for Rookie of the Year, but he lost to Brayden Schenn of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

“It’s a great honour for Evander – he’s one of the top 16-year-old players in the league and it’s nice for him to be singled out,” Don Hay told Walker in a 2008 interview. “It really gave him confidence coming into [last year’s] season.”

“Evander has had a great time playing for the Giants organization,” says Sheri. “It can only give you a boost of confidence playing in front of so many people and you want to play well.”

His experience with the Giants has helped Kane improve as a player as well as a and interviewee. Walker really appreciates this.

“…He became more outgoing and willing to share his thoughts and not just rattle off clichés when speaking to the media… He is a smart young man who excels with his media responsibilities,” says Walker.

“I think his World Junior time was a big step up for him and since his return, [he] seems to be very much willing to be his own man.”

His experience with the Canadian World Junior Hockey Team did more than help him with the media, but at first, he wasn’t even meant to be there.

Kane had been invited to Team Canada training camp, but he got cut, which was no surprise to most, considering his age.

But that changed when Team Canada centre Dana Tyrell injured his knee in a pre-tournament game against Sweden.

“We were very excited for Evander when he got the call to play for Team Canada and felt it would be a terrific opportunity for him,” says Sheri. “He watches the World Juniors every Christmas, I know he was shooting for this… It was wonderful to see his dream realized.”

And Kane showed that he was the right choice to replace Tyrell on the World Juniors roster, scoring one goal and getting three assists in the tournament, along with playing consistently and wracking up a lot of ice time, according to the Hockey Canada website.

Playing for Team Canada got Kane’s name out there even farther than it had been before, creating even more chatter about where he’d go in the upcoming NHL season’s entry draft.

It is any hockey player’s dream to be drafted and play in the NHL and become a star. In Kane’s case, that’s a possible path that he could take in the near future and his mother and father couldn’t be prouder.

“We, [as parents], are extremely proud of Evander for being so dedicated… Being noticed for his play and being an NHL draft prospect is icing on the cake for doing something he loves,” says Sheri.

Kane has been a highly-touted prospect whose projected entry draft rank is in the top 10, behind the top two prospects John Tavares, of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, and Victor Hedman, of Modo from the Swedish Elite League.

But Kane can hold his own. His skill has been compared to that of Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

Like Iginla, Kane plays on a B.C. Division team -Iginla started on the Kamloops Blazers- and he dishes out an almost even number of assists and goals. He is known for his stick-handling and his speed, and he isn’t afraid to throw his shoulder into someone and lay them out or even fight on occasion to defend one of his teammates.

Currently, the 17-year-old is playing in the second round of the WHL playoffs, which started on April 3 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver against the Spokane Chiefs. He has two goals and four assists in six games.

The series is tied 3-3 and the puck drops for game 7 on Tuesday, April 14 at 7 p.m.

The Giants swept the Prince George Cougars in the first round, defeating them in four games by scores of 8-2, 9-1, 3-2 (OT) and 3-2. Evander had two goals and three assists in that series.

Through all his experiences on his hockey journey, Kane’s family has been by his side and Sheri can’t say enough about how proud she is of her son’s determination to reach his goals.

“Seeing someone work at a sport for years and having the heart that he does when he plays, it is very fulfilling to see him accomplish some of his dreams.”