Will an alleged off-ice incident hurt Patrick Kane's chances of making the U.S. Olympic team? (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
To the benefit of no one, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane became a punchline this weekend.
By allegedly assaulting a Buffalo cab driver in the wee hours of the morning, Kane and his cousin found themselves immediately on the pop culture radar and having more than just hockey fans incredulously wondering; “Twenty cents?”
That’s purportedly the amount of money the well-to-do youngster fought over, but let’s blow this thing out, shall we?
To understand the bizarre nature of the dust-up, you need to think about the focused lives of pro athletes. From the time he was 14 years old, when Kane outgrew Buffalo’s minor hockey system and hooked up with the vaunted Honeybaked squad in Detroit, the 2008 Calder Trophy winner has been elite. He was a winner in every sense of the word, getting drafted first overall by Chicago and heading straight to the NHL, despite a frame that is slightly smaller than mine.
Like all high-level athletes, Kane got to the top of the mountain with a mixture of skill and competitiveness. The latter did him in this weekend. When I heard the fateful cab story, I can’t say I was really that shocked – well, maybe that Kane was the alleged perp, but not that an NHLer supposedly punched out a cabbie over pocket change.
I’ve been in more than one cab where the driver claimed not to have enough change to give me what I was owed back and it’s frustrating. Not punch-and-strangle frustrating, perhaps, but frustrating. Now, Patrick Kane is a winner; is he going to let some cabbie rip him off after a (possibly) crunk night on Chippewa Street? Yeah, like the guy with a Calder Trophy is gonna back down from a 62-year-old with no trophies…come on!
Am I excusing the behavior? Nope. I’m simply saying I can understand Kane’s mindset, flawed as it may have been.
In fact, what I’m more surprised at is the fact Kane was out partying in his hometown with U.S. Olympic trials (where I assume arrests may not count in your favor) so near on the calendar.
If Kane had been drinking (which has not been proven, only assumed), he gets no sympathy from me for anything that happened. Why? Because nearly everyone in Buffalo knows who Pat Kane is and they all know he isn’t old enough to legally drink alcohol.
Ironically, Kane’s fellow young Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews ran into trouble with underaged drinking when he was busted at a bar while attending the University of North Dakota a few years back. In a state with no major pro sports teams where the Fighting Sioux hockey players are considered high profile athletes, Toews neglected to think that someone out there may recognize him and realize he’s not of age. Toews didn’t, however; Kane may not have either.
When the truth finally shakes out, Kane will still likely be a member of Team USA at the Vancouver Olympics, the cabbie will get an apology and other than a fine or community service, the worst thing the young star will have to deal with is chirping from teammates and opponents about the whole thing.
But not a summer goes by when something silly doesn’t happen to at least one NHLer. For those who think the off-season is too short, I put forth this incident as proof positive it isn’t; while Kane may be adept at lightning-fast decisions on the ice, his judgment at 4 a.m. in downtown Buffalo in the middle of summer may prove to be less than stellar.
When the rigid culture of the season is finished, adapting to so much freedom can be a burden for some NHLers.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly throughout the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - on Fridays, and his prospect feature - The Hot List - on Tuesdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.