Suspicion Over Kane Saga Never Going Away

With the closure of it’s independent investigation in to sexual assault allegations made against Patrick Kane last summer, the NHL appears to be hoping a line will be drawn under the saga.

It won’t.

Events of the past few months have left an extremely bitter taste. The timing of the NHL press release has only soured things further, dividing fan opinions (as the allegations have from the start) and dug further inroads of suspicion around the player, the Blackhawks and the NHL.

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Here’s the NHL press release in full:

The National Hockey League announced today that it has completed its independent review of the Patrick Kane matter, the final stage of which included an in-person meeting between Kane and Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York on Monday, March 7.

Based on its review, including the determination made by the Erie County District Attorney not to pursue charges, the NHL has concluded that the allegations made against Kane were unfounded. The League considers the matter closed and will have no further comment.

In itself there may seem nothing wrong with this. The league has looked in to an allegation made against one of its players, it believes those allegations were, to use their own words, ‘unfounded’.

So why the suspicion? The vitriol? The anger aimed at the NHL? Perhaps this excerpt from Barry Petchesky column for Deadspin best sums it up:

The NHL has a strong interest in rehabilitating Kane’s image. He’s the most famous American player, he’s having an MVP season, his team should go deep into the playoffs again, and it’s important for the league to once again be able to present Kane as the face of the league. It is probably no coincidence that this statement comes the same week that Kane gets a Sports Illustrated cover story. This release is an unequivocal statement that the NHL backs Kane, and thinks its fans should too.

For many, there is a feeling it all comes back to money and Kane’s status as one of the sports most skilful players being used for promotional purposes.

On the ice, Kane has undoubtedly been one of the stand out players this season. His efforts for the Blackhawks would be worthy of the Hart Trophy in almost any other season. But it’s not the first time Kane has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, and the handling of the summer allegations has been questioned from the start.

The end result is that the idea of Kane being honoured as the league’s MVP is a tough pill to swallow for a portion of the NHL’s fan base. A segment that now feels at best undervalued, at worst betrayed, that Kane will once again be lauded as one of the games best player – someone kids should look up to – despite skirting a line you’d normally hope no human would go near, let alone a high profile figure.

It didn’t go unnoticed that the timing of this press release was pitched almost perfectly so it will be ‘forgotten’ by many come springtime.

Within hours of one press release, came another announcing Chicago – one of the league’s marquee franchises – would be involved in another outdoor game (this time against the Blues).

If ever there was an attempt to bury what was essentially bad news…

But again, that’s almost in keeping with the handling of this entire matter.

The Blackhawks appeared somewhat tone deaf in their handling of Kane during the investigation (remember that somewhat bizarre press conference?) and the NHL’s apparent truth finding mission will always be tainted because of their conflict of interest in wanting to make Kane marketable again.

For many, yesterday felt like the final swing of the broom in an attempt to brush things under the carpet.

This seems to plug in to a wider cultural problem though – where entertainers sins are forgiven in ways a normal persons would never be. And sportsmen are entertainers at the end of the day. Helping their teams compete for your support, your devotion and your money. Always your money.

Speaking broadly for a moment; short of a being found guilty of a serious crime – which, depressingly, domestic violence and sexual assault do not seem to come under often – there is always one writer willing to pen a ‘redemption story’. Someone willing to give you another chance.

At the top end of that scale we have Chris Brown, who continues to have a music career, despite several high profile incidents and a conviction of felony assault.

Further down we have Jeremy Clarkson, who punched a Producer while filming Top Gear. Clarkson walked in to another well paid job with Amazon, the Producer received numerous threatening and abusive messages.

In sporting circles, Michael Vick returned to the NFL and Justin Gatlin, the sprinter twice banned for failing drugs tests, is competing again and resumed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike (Maria Sharapova take heart…)

Obviously there are different shades of grey among those examples, but the end result is the same – all were ‘forgiven’ in one sense or another, able to benefit from a privileged life again because of their ‘celebrity’ status.

It’s important to point out Kane will face no further charges, from the police or NHL. It is not necessarily the literal outcome that has cast such a dark cloud though, but the way in which the storm was handled at its inception and in the months following, leading up to this somewhat cold ending.

The end result is that the suspicion of Kane, the Blackhawks and the NHL is very real right now. And it while it may fade for many, it will never go away for some.

It’s understandable that the NHL would be keen to move on. To promote Kane’s on ice performances and close this particular chapter. The police investigation against Kane was dropped, without any charges being brought, and the NHL’s internal investigation is over. But the handling of the situation mean it’s unlikely this cloud will ever truly ‘blow away’. Too much suspicion remains. And always will.

One can only hope it’s linger presence teaches some hard lessons for the future and the way in which such things are handled.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on March 10, 2016, in Chicago Blackhawks, Hockey, NHL and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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