GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Kane may be the NHL’s biggest star.
The Buffalo native became the only U.S.-born player ever to score 20 or more goals in each of his first nine NHL seasons when he found the net on Dec. 19 in his hometown.
Earlier this season, he posted a 26-game point streak, which was the longest streak in NHL history for an American-born player, eclipsing the 18 straight by Ed Olczyk (1999-00) and Phil Kessel (2008-09). It was also the longest streak in Blackhawks history, surpassing the 21 by Bobby Hull in 1971-72, and it was the longest streak in the NHL since Mats Sundin went 30 straight for the Quebec Nordiques in 1992-93.
As the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks come to town for a Tuesday meeting with the Coyotes at Gila River Arena, Kane leads the NHL in points (50) and highlight reel plays like these (excuse the cheesy music).
If an early ballot were taken, Kane would probably win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. We can’t help but wonder how the league and its fans would feel about that.
There is no denying Kane’s talent or star appeal. The Blackhawks are the biggest draw across the NHL and Kane is the biggest reason for that attention, but he also brought negative attention to the league long before last summer’s three-month investigation into a sexual assault allegation against him in his hometown of Hamburg, N.Y. No charges were filed in that case and district attorney Frank Sedita eventually dismissed it as a sham after some bizarre twists called into question the validity of the alleged victim’s claims.
Here’s the simple version. Kane was exonerated of all wrongdoing in the eyes of the law. He shouldn’t continually have to answer for a crime the law says he didn’t commit.
The problem? It’s not that simple. Whether charges were filed or not, nobody, repeat nobody will ever know what really happened in that room that night except for Kane and his accuser.
It was grossly irresponsible of many fans and some media members to assume Kane’s guilt before all the facts were presented and the case unfolded. It is also sad and deplorable that Kane’s case may deter future victims of sexual assault from coming forward after witnessing the biased, uninformed and grotesquely inappropriate things many fans said of the alleged victim, again, before all the facts were presented and the case unfolded.
Maybe you think this won’t matter by the time the hardware is hoisted at the NHL Award Ceremony in June in Las Vegas, but for a segment of the population, Kane’s immature and irresponsible behavior is reason enough to dislike the Chicago star and hope he doesn’t win, even if he wasn’t found guilty.
Kane put himself in a bad situation once again through behavior that he told his team was a part of his past. That alone is not a crime, and many fans inside and outside Chicago will likely move on. For some, however, Kane’s otherworldly talent and undeniably electric play will never overcome his conduct off the ice.
In a league starved for icons to market in the U.S., that makes for an uncomfortable and imperfect marriage.
Blackhawks at Coyotes
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Injury report: Blackhawks — C Marcus Kruger (wrist surgery on Dec. 18) is on IR and is expected to miss four months. Coyotes — C Martin Hanzal (lower body) and C Boyd Gordon (upper body) will not play. F Steve Downie (upper body) is questionable.
Starting goalies: Arizona — Anders Lindback. Chicago — Corey Crawford.
Scouting the Hawks: Chicago has dropped two straight, including a listless 2-1 loss to Carolina on Sunday at United Center. … F Artemi Panarin leads all rookies with 31 points (10 goals). … F Patrick Kane leads the NHL with 50 points (21 goals) but has gone point-less in his last two games, matching his longest drought of the season. … G Corey Crawford is tied for eighth in the NHL with a .925 save percentage. … Chicago recalled D Erik Gustafsson from Rockford (AHL) and placed former Coyotes D David Rundblad on waivers.
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