Has a City Turned on its Young Star?


Evander Kane is a gifted hockey player. No question about it, he can play. He’s 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and can skate and score. When he comes flying down the wing, he reminds some of the old-timers of Bobby Hull. He’s considered by most NHL scouts as a 20-year-old with a tremendous future.

These days he’s the Jets leading goal scorer with 18 and the second-leading scorer with 31 points. But he’s now in a dreadful slump — he hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games, has only two points in the last 10 and is minus-eight.

He’s also developing a horrible reputation and whether that’s fair or not probably doesn’t matter. Somehow, in a city that has embraced its hockey team with an enthusiasm never seen before in Winnipeg — perhaps never seen in this country — one player has upset the fans so completely that he’s now the butt of jokes, the source of rumours and the target of large, homemade signs of derision.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

His problem would appear to be the fact he’s a big-city, 21st Century athlete in a small town that has never warmed to athletes who (a) need to be paid for just about everything they do and (b) carry themselves as bigger, richer and more important than other members of the community.

Still, it’s shocking that in a city that is so madly in love with its hockey team that almost everyone in town has at least one piece of Jets gear and where tickets sold out in minutes and Jets licence plates sold out in hours, that one player could bring out so much anger.

It probably started when his (NOTE, two hours later new information: "business manager," and not his) agent, Craig Oster, went to local restaurants and bars with a business plan: for money, young Evander would tweet that a bunch of Jets were at a particular watering hole in order to draw fans to the establishment — even if they weren’t there at all.

Then Kane, who is no different than any other 20-year-old — he likes the occasional party at a downtown saloon — ended up on thedirty.com, a social stigma website that pays tribute to those who act like douchenozzles in public places. Ouch.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Then came Saturday night.

The media was told on Saturday that Kane had suffered a concussion. The team wasn’t sure when the young player became concussed, but head coach Claude Noel said that Kane had come forward on Friday to say he wasn’t feeling well and later in the day, the team determined that it was a concussion.

That didn’t stop the fans from going nuts on Twitter, Facebook and at the rink. More than one person was convinced that Kane had been involved in an altercation Thursday night after the win over Buffalo at a Winnipeg bar called Whiskey Dix. In fact, Whiskey Dix got more tweets on Saturday that it ever would have, had it (and it may have) paid Kane for the service.

Whether it was true or not didn’t matter. The damage was done.

Meanwhile, at the rink this past week, Kane became the butt of an embarrassing sign. It read: "Dear Evander: Please stop walking out on your bills. Sincerely, Winnipeg servers and restauranteurs (sic)."

A local Winnipeg newspaper columnist called a couple of local restaurants (two to be precise), and defended Kane from the nasty implications, but what all this suggests is that somehow, some way, in a small prairie city that actually worships its professional hockey players, one of those players has angered enough people to become much less than worshipped.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Now let’s not take this too far. Kane was paid to sign autographs at a local auto dealership a month ago and fans who came just moments late had to wait in line for more than an hour. The name "Kane" is still on plenty of Jets jerseys in the crowd. This might be just a bump in the road to hockey immortality.

But for a kid who wanted a trade early in the season, has responded with improved play to two benchings and has been the most explosive offensive force on a team that can’t score, this just might be another wake-up call.

Because when you’ve pissed off a fan base that wants to love you as much as their own family members, you’re probably doing something wrong.

  • HangMan

    How many restaurants did you call. Oh none…because there is no story.

    Kane has not pissed off the fan base. He pissed off some girl he didn’t want to have sex with and the boyfriend who almost got cheated on.

    (Edited by Wanye)

  • HangMan

    Hey “Steve”,

    Winnipeg happens to be a quite culturally diverse community; it hates no one.

    Moving on to the article, it states in error that it was Kane’s agent Oster that was promoting the cash for tweets deal, when it was in fact Kane’s “business manager” Jeffrey Uppal that did so. I’m guessing that Craig Oster wouldn’t like to see this behavior attributed to him, given that it wasn’t him.

  • HangMan

    He’s trouble waiting to happen trade him for someone proven like Selanne and a first round draft pick. We have no accomplished vets to slap him and tell him he’s nothing special and he will end up like theo fleury did.. in bad news and forced into retirement. but at 20 with no cup, accomplishments, or respect! OR Send him to the Minors for the rest of his days as a Jet, we don’t need him! If your always on the power play then chances are you will get some points. Your not producing, and causing trouble.. and I say Sir you are making a mockery of our Hockey Team and City!

    • You must be joking. Should the Jets (Version 1.0) traded Keith Tkachuk for a first round draft pick, even though he had a reputation at the time as well? Should the Oilers trade Taylor Hall away, even though he pretty much has the exact same reputation in Edmonton?

      The Calgary Flames dealt Dion Phaneuf away to Toronto, and rumor has it that his antics off ice and in the dressing room were a contributing factor. I wonder how well that trade worked out for them?

  • HangMan

    I also notice that Gary Lawless Winnipeg Free Press Kane column has almost 200 comments, while this article only has 9, two of which are mine. (Edited by Wanye)

  • HangMan

    About the only bad thing I can think of is he doesn’t like the winter. It’s nice to have a rink in your own back yard like Gretz did, no?

    I thought Burmistrov was future of team but clearly Kane has the hands. Would like to call you on Bobby Hull comparison. Crosby glid around two D and roofed it 1st game back. I’ve seen Kane try it a few times; is almost big enough to be a power forward. The only Bobby Hull I’ve seen so far is from ’76 box set. Toews does that move the smoothest but Crosby has softer hands. Washington and Pittsburgh are all banged up and Fla GM said is a rebuilding year; should be in playoffs.

  • All these rumors about Kane had got me thinking “I wonder what he was like in Atlanta with the Thrashers organization?”

    Atlanta resident “Hildymac” provided some insight that I had been seeking:

    “Here in ATL, no one cared what he did, both on or off of the ice. The coaches were terrible at accountability, the party scene was great and the guys were pretty much unknowns outside of the fanbase. Factor in nearly no press coverage, and you have the perfect environment for a young guy to basically do whatever.

    Regardless of if Kane’s walked out on tabs or been a douchenozzle in public or not, he needs to adjust to the spotlight if he wants to be successful in Winnipeg.”

    source: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/evander-kane-vs-haters-winnipeg-restaurant-controversy-maturity-171010484.html

    I see this in a very favorable light. In other words, Kane was free to do as he pleased in Atlanta, without supervision. It seems management simply did not care. You are also talking about a metro area with over 5,000,000 people that could not care less about the NHL, and a media who would not consider antics of Thrasher players “Newsworthy.”

    Going to Winnipeg may be a huge blessing in disguise, as he is only 20, and has plenty of time to adjust to the fact that he cannot get away with things off-ice activities the Thrashers had partaken in. Hopefully it will mold him into a respectable member of the community.