Being good on the ice shouldn’t supplant your wrongdoings off of it

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Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SPORTS

From the looks of it, Evander Kane is going to hit the trade market for the second time in less than two years. Not many were surprised to see him head from Winnipeg to Buffalo during the 2014/15 season, and many came to his defence. Most of his issues, after all, had been with the team, and a civil suit placed in his direction for an incident in Vancouver was brushed off when Kane retorted that his thrown street punches were in self-defence.

Fast forward, and we’re back to where we started, except worse. This time, the Buffalo Sabres want off of this wild ride, and it’s due to a string of off-ice incidents. You don’t need me to re-paint the picture for you here; Canucks Army managing editor JD Burke did an excellent job detailing the list of accusations placed upon Kane, and why he has reservations about bringing in a player with this much and this type of smoke surrounding their personal life.

Vancouver Province writer Ben Kuzma, on the other hand, feels differently. He thinks the Canucks should go after the local youngster. Which, of course, is his opinion, which he’s welcome to have. But the delivery is almost as problematic as the player he’s defending.

Two moments in this piece, towards the beginning, are extreme lowlights:

The optics of another off-ice altercation by the wayward Evander Kane were ugly, but the timing may not have been better for the Vancouver Canucks, who desperately need to acquire a second-line left-winger.

Way to start off with a bang, I guess. Nobody is denying that if the “we can win now, we swear” dream is going to continue to be chased, more help on the wings wouldn’t help. But there are things you don’t say (nor should you believe them in your heart, really), and claiming that a player having a criminal assault accusation placed upon them is exactly what your sports team needs to get better is one of those things.

When teams are looking for undervalued players, they’re typically looking for players who are played in miscast roles or spent the year injured, not ones who spend as much time in the back of a police car as they do on the bench. At least, I would hope so. While everybody is trying to win a championship and there are millions of dollars changing hands here, this is ultimately an entertainment product based around a sport people play for fun; it’s effectively meaningless compared to what goes on in the real world.

The “right time” for a repeatedly accused offender to try to choke out a woman because he was mad at somebody else is literally never. I don’t care if it guarantees the Canucks a Stanley Cup. Never.

Whether Kane has a behavioural problem to the extent that the NHL could evoke disciplinary action, or demand counselling, you have to wonder how much of all this is a serious character flaw? Or, how much is it a result of being a talented, well-paid, fun-loving, stubborn and selfish athlete, with a skewed sense of professionalism?

Are you kidding me? “A result of being a talented, well-paid, fun-loving, stubborn and selfish athlete.” That’s a horrible statement that paints the aggressor as a victim of his own success.

Here’s a reality check: Evander Kane has been known to be an elite hockey player destined for the NHL since he was a young boy. He’s had all sorts of coaches, tutors, mentors, and role model figures around him, preparing him for the moment, like most star players. He’s chosen to ignore it and, for reasons none of us particularly know, act in public like he’s allowed to do whatever he wants.

“Well-paid” shouldn’t buy him get out of jail free cards. “Talented” only matters on the ice. “Fun-loving” sounds great, until you wonder how much fun all of his accusers were having if what they’ve all repeatedly been saying holds true. There’s no excuse for selfish, and the portrayal of a “boys will be boys” stubbornness is toxic.

I’m a little under four months younger than Evander Kane and am not rich and famous. If I did any of the things he was accused of, I’d have absolutely no career prospects moving forward, and trouble finding even an ‘everyday’ job. You know what, though? That would be fair because being violent and intentionally ignorant of boundaries is something that most of us are taught as young children. Kane has been an adult for quite some time now and had the resources to fast-track his mindset into adulthood earlier than most. He hasn’t used them. That’s on him.

The only thing more ridiculous is the ‘skewed sense of professionalism’ bit that ends the sentence. This transcends professionalism. Skewed sense of professionalism applied in back in Winnipeg, and then, I didn’t care too much about; money phones and track suits are a bit childish, but also a little funny and they only make him look dumb. “Don’t assault people” isn’t professionalism; it’s basic human ethics that go beyond the workplace.

The rest of Kuzma’s piece goes on to outline the hockey merits of making a trade, and that’s all well and good. When Kane was being chased out of town, my perspective was that most of his problems were stemmed in mild immaturity and in not getting along with specific people, and perhaps overblown. Heck, I was even in the boat that felt that the perception of him outside of team operations seemed to have a tinge of racism attached to it.

But now? This isn’t about how Kane interacts with his hockey team. It’s about how he interacts with society, and after a certain amount of incidents, it’s hard to deny that this looks really, really, bad. Would I still take him as a hockey player? Yeah, probably. Would I still take on his personality? If I had an iron-clad plan not just to stay out of trouble, but rehabilitate his mindsets, with a way to make sure that he had consequence with the team or with the law if he messes up again? I’d consider it. 

But let’s be real with ourselves. This isn’t “the right time” for an accused assault to happen. This isn’t boys will be boys, and this isn’t somebody who has been led astray by fame. If you want Evander Kane on the team, that’s cool, but cut the crap surrounding it. Acknowledge that this is a problemed man who needs to take blame for his wrong-doings and shouldn’t be seen as anybody’s blessing until he makes himself until he rehabilitates himself.

Celebrating him and making excuses for him, at this point, is nothing short of embarrassing to the writer, the publication, and the reader.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Wow, that was a passionate article. However, the reality is that none of us understand the everyday lifestyle of the modern young ultra-rich athlete. The sensationalism that the media reports on these incidences are hardly balanced. While yes this is a Canucks forum, where were such articles regarding Patrick Kane? Varlamov? Voynov? Where was the vile for Kassian for all his garbage?

    Moreover, how does morality relate to supporting a team? Are Patriots fans lesser people because they were cheering for Hernandez and the Patriots; Ravens fans for Ray Lewis; Steelers fans with Roethlisberger; Senators fans with Dany Heatley? Blackhawks fans with Kane? Just because the players on our favourite team are jerks, make massive mistakes and buy themselves out of trouble does not mean that we (as fans) are individually mirrors of the teams that we support.

    I hope the Canucks trade for Kane at a reasonable market price; I hope Kane becomes a responsible citizen and contributer to society; I hope Kane pots 50 goals for the Canucks and beats the crap out of Lucic. Its just sports.

  • Marvin101

    How about we just give him the same assumption of innocence that Patrick Kane got?

    Plus we haven’t met the people making the accusations…. I have no doubt in the US in particular there are a lot of folks looking to make money from suing a “star.”

    Linden had some interesting comments a while ago about young players needed real guidance, who knows what this kid could be under the right guidance.

  • sh1t4brains

    Though he’s certainly been immature and problematic, I don’t think his behaviour is as dire and dramatic as many are making out on this sight. No one is irredeemable and the Canucks have a really solid leadership group that can help to keep him on track. I do think he’s worth taking a chance on. Local boy, good family, great skills and the right style of play. I’d be happy to see him be a project as long as we don’t give up too much to get him.

  • Marvin101

    As others have said, you can’t be surprised when a player in a league that encourages face punching as a way of settling slights or injustices turns to physical violence to resolve slights in the real world.

    Kane isn’t a saint. Allegedly the night in question he was at the event as a celebrity bartender. He gets physical with some patrons and even a bouncer. There have got to be two sides to the story.

  • Marvin101

    the last 4 years kane has averaged 33 points per year and played an average of 53 games. combine that with his antics and salary and it’s hard to make a case for trading any valuable assets for him.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I’d trade Sbisa for Kane, but I definitely would not pay more than that for Kane. Kane is Kassian 2.0.

    If Vancouver acquired him, I would want him to get counseling and I would want the Sedins to Mentor him on being a person.

  • This is not really a difficult problem to solve. Teams in the NFL routinely assign talented but problematic players a minder to babysit them away from the field. I don’t see how Kane and a team interested in him couldn’t find the $100k or so it would take to setup a similar arrangement.

  • TheRealPB

    I’m no fan of fighting but equating off-ice misdeeds with on-ice fighting — an accepted if antiquated part of the game with specific rules even if they’re stupid — is completely misguided. It’s completely wrong to equate a hockey enforcer with either someone who takes a swing with their stick at someone’s head or someone who’s engaging in violence towards women or others off the ice. I think fighting has no place in hockey but it’s not the same thing.

    Part of the problem is the NHL (and pro sports in general)’s parsing of different kinds of behaviors and whether or not someone is actually convicted. If there’s to be a “moral” clause in contracts (and I can’t remember if there is in the NHL) then I don’t think it should be up to the legal definition of a given misdeed. Yes I think it’s important to have some kind of presumption of innocence and yes I also think that in some cases one can express (and show) true contrition and be rehabilitated. Dany Heatley and Craig MacTavish both killed someone driving drunk and expressed serious remorse. Ray Rice, as horrific as that video was, has done a ton of work in rehab and with the NFL to try to both understand what he die one atone for it. He, unlike Heatley and MacTavish, will not however resume his career but that has as much to do with his age and the presumption that he won’t be a productive player as his off-field actions.

    And that’s what’s crap – Greg Hardy, a truly pathetic and offensive individual, continues to get chance after chance despite showing little sense that what he’s done is as awful as it is. Putting aside the Aaron Hernandez or Rae Carruth criminals, there are all kinds of d-bags who continue to ply their trade in pro sports because they play sports gud. Roethlisberger and Varlamov kept their jobs and Patrick Kane who has repeatedly shown his true colors from beating up a cabbie for change to drunken misadventures to the sexual assault allegations. Despite his season last year I’ve heard friends of mine who are Blackhawks fans say that it’s lessened their appetite to watch the team because they continue to employ him. I know that’s a minority but it’s one I’d agree with.

    We’ve been lucky on the Canucks to have had really only a handful of jerks on the team — Kesler, Tiger Williams — but nothing approaching the kinds of controversies that Evander Kane courts. Yes he gets treated differently in part due to race but there are too many of these situations he gets into in different contexts for me to think there’s nothing there.

  • Riley Miner

    Jeff, this is an opinion I agree with. It’s reasonable and points out what’s wrong with thinking about Evander Kane as a bening commodity rather than a fallible human.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    arvedis, just trying to understand your logic.

    why is it the “effect of a piece like this is to attract racist commentary”?

    what is it about the article that attracts racists? how does it feed the trolls?

    just curious.

  • Riley Miner

    Its the name on the front of the jersey that matters most, not the one on the back.
    Thats a lesson taught in atoms hockey that apparently Evander didn’t grasp the concept.
    No thanks to a player like this.

  • Dirty30

    Hey, you know what? Maybe it’s me. I lived in the States for a while, race is messed up there, and maybe a bunch of twenty something white dudes from Canada can help set me straight on “the race card” I’ve been playing. But one last time and for the record:

    1. I’m not defending Kane. I’m not prematurely convicting Kane either. On Kane I have nothing to say.

    2. I am saying that criticizing Kane’s character invites racist comments.

    3. Those are different points.

    4. #2 is a side effect of widespread racism in sports coverage and fan cultures. There is a mountain of academic and journalistic writing about this phenomenon. Sports help us figure out how we feel about other people (races, genders, nationalities). Often race is a big part of what we’re sorting out when we watch.

    5. That racism often comes out in code words about bad character or individualism. “Selfish,” “bad teammate,” etc. Generally this means “different than me.”

    6. Hockey is particularly brutal about these code words. See that second I linked article for examples.

    7. There’s no race-blind way to assess “character” in a sports celebrity you’ve never met. If you think you can you’re lying, fooling yourself, or need to call the Nobel Peace prize committee immediately.

    8. A “race blind” post like Jeff’s might be super well intentioned, which I bet it is, and super well argued, which I know it is, but also, at the same time, create safe harbor for racist outbursts like the one I objected to in the first place on this comment board.

    9. I’m still not saying anything here about whether Kane is a good person or not. See points #2-7.

    That’s it from me. Enjoy commenting!

  • LTFan

    I have been reading material from Canucks Army since 2011 and I think this is the most disappointing article I have read on this website. It’s not that I agree or disagree with how Jeff feels about Evander Kane but how it fly’s in the face of everything that Canucks Army has worked for over the last few years.

    Canucks Army has always been a numbers first website that has become more and more prominent in the local Canucks fandom and now more accepted in the main stream media (from quick hits on TSN1040 to being quoted on Canucks games by Dan Murphy). Jeff completely rips Ben Kuzmas article and it feels like he is calling Kuzma a piece of garbage for even considering trading for Kane.

    I know that Jeff is based out of Toronto and they have to deal with the likes of Simmons and Cox everyday but here in Vancouver we are pretty damn lucky to have the reporters we do. I know that people give IMac a hard time but really for the most part the city of Vancouver has some damn fine sports reporters. If Jeff could put his emotions in check and was maybe a little more level headed this would have been a fine article. Attacking a local member of the “main stream media” is as old as blogging itself but it always felt like Canucks Army was a little bit above that. Not because they always agreed with the media or stayed out of petty fights but because they backed everything up with data and proved their point that way.

    This article is scathing and just puts the website back to the “just another bunch of bloggers in Mom’s basements” realm. It is based strictly on emotions and morale high ground. There is no data supporting why or what happens when morally corrupt or players with baggage effect their new teams. It is strictly “Ben Kuzmas opinion is wrong and gross because he thinks the Canucks should trade for Kane.”

    Should players that do disgusting acts be banned from the NHL or any league for that matter, it sure would make us feel better cheering for a team full of great people. However this is the real world and there are really really good people (see the Sedins) some people that do good and bad things and then the worst kind of people (see Aaron Hernandez).

    I have and will continue to read and enjoy the articles on this website. I just hope Canucks Army can disagree with the main stream media by using facts and numbers to prove a point and by taking the high road it will continue to gain traction with more and more hockey fans.

    • TheRealRusty

      I’m not sure what facts and figures you need Jeff to present that meets your needs. A corsi on arrests? A fenwick on bar fights. A home and away stat on police interaction? A team embarrassment graph? I don’t get your logic. All reporters get critiqued by the readership….its the nature of the business and Kuzma is no exception.

  • LTFan

    Compare the two Kanes. It’s simple. One Kane bears the crap out of a taxi driver over, literally, a dime, and then accused of rape. We all know what happens to hockey players accused of rape, but he was convicted if violently assaulting another person. Penalty? The Hart trophy.

    This other Kane, from the west coast this time, is exonerated of the violence he is accused of and yet he is a problem? Colour divided hockey teams have been common in the east forever. People who are not white are not welcome. This Kane is living in a country where people are killed for burnt out tail lights and selling cigarettes on the street.

    Nobody is playing any card here. Look at the facts alone. Even if you are white and for that reason do not understand what any of this means, or an obstructive resistant hard ass, you can look at what exists and see what is happening. This article overlooks the emperor’s new clothes, as does Ben Kuzma’s that purports to support this Kane. Look at what is happening here, and in every small town everywhere in Canada. Is anybody saying, “well, he’s Irish, and boys will be boys”? Is anybody, well, we expect a little edge from a hockey player”? No. Nobody is, and nobody ever will. Look at a player for his hockey benefits only. If he is Shane O’Brien or Zack Kassian, it does not matter. This player is not a Canuck. Do you want him to play, or believe he can fit, on the team? Stick to hockey, and stop judging this man on terms that you do not judge others.

  • Dirty30

    So Jeff, I’m actually one of your supporters in this space, but please read this idiot’s comment carefully. This is what you authorize when you write a high-minded moral critique of a black man. The Trump fans are right there with you–and that ought to worry you.

    (It’s also worth reflecting on whether you would have been motivated enough to write this piece if Kane were not black. But I assume you’ve already answered that for yourself.)

  • Olands

    This is exactly the line you’re walking when you wade into issues like this. I think it best to avoid scathing social critiques on sites like this. Life and people for that matter just aren’t that simple.

  • Riley Miner

    The article has nothing to do with his skin color; he went out of his way to say that the attitude towards him in Winnipeg could have been passable as racially tinged, and he didn’t like that. But he also said that his behavior in Buffalo is unacceptable, which is true. That’s true regardless of his skintone. We chastized Patrick Kane about it, and now w’re criticizing Evander. Obviously Patrick Kane’s incident was MUCH more significant (allegedly).

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    @ArvydasSabonis

    Jeff didn’t bring up race at all. Why are you? Why are you bringing up Trump?

    Jeff thinks the Canucks shouldn’t take a risk on a player that was shipped out of Winnipeg for being a cancer in and out the locker room-such actions as calling the team an hour before a game to announce he wasn’t playing and wasn’t coming to the arena (as well as other actions.) This is a guy whose teammates were fed up.

    Now Buffalo wants to ship him out because of incidents that have nothing to do with his play, but rather his off-ice behaviour.

    Suggesting there is a race card there to be played is ridiculously unfair to Jeff. People may disagree about whether the Canucks may trade for him (and quite a few do) but when two teams get rid of a player for his off-ice behaviour, it’s completely reasonable to take the position that a particular team shouldn’t take a chance on his character. It has nothing to do with race.

    Shame on you.

  • Whackanuck

    What’s the point of CA removing a comment if you’re going to repost it.

    CA please remove this comment as well.

    Personally I dont believe race is the issue in the Kane saga from his point of 6view. Too bad it is from others.

    And no to Kane.

  • Dirty30

    I didn’t see culture coming into this at all until some simpletons mentioned it. Not sure how you can defend a guy who is a proven cancer and has recently been charged and arrested. Also, he just seems like a child – his own twitter feed would prove this.

    Anyway, I guess the morons are all jumping on the ‘racist’ bandwagon after recent U.S. events. Perhaps look into some critical thinking.

  • LTFan

    Easy bud. I think we’re on the same side. I’d ask you to go back and read what I actually wrote, and not what you imagine I wrote.

    I was responding to a since-deleted racist comment, and not to Jeff’s argument. I was suggesting that he think a little bit about the effects of writing a piece like this, not his motivation for writing it. His motivation might be completely above board and hockey-related, as you suggest. It might not be–maybe Jeff’s more likely to criticize the character of a black player who is allegedly violent with women than he would be for the dozens and dozens of white players who have been accused of similar things. Whatever, you and me are only guessing at Jeff’s motivation. But the effect of a piece like this is to attract racist commentary. So I was asking Jeff to think that through, and think through whether feeding the trolls, and now all the people apologizing for the trolls, is a worthwhile contribution to the world.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Considering Jeff was very much outspoken against Ryan O’Reilly’s Tim Hortons incident, Patrick Kane being a crappy person in general, and Voynov being a wife beating monster, so maybe stop with this narrative. Evander Kane is a bit of a scumbag, race has nothing to do with that, and Jeff didn’t even bring it up.

    If Voynov, ROR or P. Kane were in rumors involving Vancouver, I’m more than certain he would be against that as well.