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Boston area’s Kevin Hayes waiting wicked long time to join Blackhawks

Hawks winger Jimmy Hayes shoots goal while defended by Detroit defenseman Ian White second period Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 wover Detroit

Hawks winger Jimmy Hayes shoots on goal while defended by Detroit defenseman Ian White in the second period of the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday February 21, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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CAMP SCHEDULE

At Johnny’s IceHouse West, 2550 W. Madison St.

Friday

• 10 a.m.: Scrimmage,
Team A vs. Team B.

Updated: July 12, 2013 9:41PM



Kevin Hayes sounds like he just walked off the set of a Ben Affleck movie, his thick Boston accent as much a part of his identity as his big frame, soft hands and playmaking ability. Even at Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at the United Center, as hard as he was rooting for the Blackhawks to beat his hometown Boston Bruins, Hayes — a Boston College senior-to-be but the Hawks’ first-round draft pick in 2010 — never tried to hide the accent.

“No, no way,” he said with a laugh. “Always stay true.”

There are limits to loyalty, however. Back home in Dorchester, Mass., Hayes’ mom wanted to put a Hawks flag out in front of the house. The Hayes boys — older brother Jimmy and younger brother Kevin, both prized prospects in the Hawks’ system — made sure that didn’t happen.

“She was kind of nervous about getting egged, so we didn’t do that,” Kevin said. “We had it in the house, not outside.”

Hayes is all Hawks now. After all, it has been three long years since he was taken with the 24th pick, and Jimmy has played 41 games with the Hawks over the last two seasons. It’s actually the first time Kevin’s loyalties haven’t been torn. As a kid, he liked the Bruins but also rooted for the St. Louis Blues because his cousin Keith Tkachuk played for them. He also followed all seven teams his cousin Tom Fitzgerald played for. Ryan Fitzgerald, another cousin, was a fourth-round pick of the Bruins this year. No matter.

“Hundred percent Hawks now,” he said.

The question is, when will he finally get to wear a Hawks sweater? Hayes was just out of high school when he was drafted. Now he’s about to start his senior year at BC. This might have been the year he turned pro had his career not been derailed last February — first by a suspension for an off-ice incident, then by a severe quadriceps injury Feb. 26 (his first game back from the suspension) that necessitated four surgeries.

Hayes is back on the ice but is not fully participating in this week’s prospect camp at Johnny’s IceHouse West — the whopping fourth straight one Hayes has attended.

“Of course, it’s frustrating,” he said. “You get drafted and you finally get a smell of what it’s like when you come to camp, and you want to get there as quick as possible. Unfortunately, I had a little setback — a major setback — that didn’t even give me a decision to make. I feel better pretty much every day, and I can’t wait for September when preseason starts back at BC.”

Hayes was drafted as a center but spent most of last season on the wing. He said he prefers center but is comfortable at either position. At 6-3, 213 pounds, he’s an inch taller and 12 pounds heavier than when he was drafted.

“I’m much bigger and stronger, and I think I skate a lot better, as well,” he said. “When I was drafted, I wasn’t really a defensive guy. I’ve changed my game. My coach, Mike Cavanaugh, who just left [for UConn], really harped on that and helped me with that. I can’t wait until I can get back out there and show everyone.”

That’ll be back home in Boston until late spring at the earliest, when Hayes wraps up his college career and likely heads to Rockford, where he’ll hope for a late call-up. Maybe then, after four long years of waiting, both Hayes boys can take their size, their skill and, yes, their big Boston accents to Chicago for good.

‘‘I can’t wait for the season; I’m not really looking that far ahead,” Kevin Hayes said. “September can’t come soon enough.”



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