If the headline isn’t enough to raise a few eyebrows as to what Winnipeg’s hockey-lovin’, blue-collar fans think about Evander Kane and his superstar ways, check out the poll at the bottom of the page. Having worked our way through the “uncoachable” meme from about a month ago, it’s onto the next ridiculous bit of criticism of Kane, who is, to be clear, the only player who scored 30 goals last year below the age of 21. He is also, along with Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal, are the only players to score 60 or more times before turning 21 since the lost season.
Head to Twitter and pump in Evander Kane’s name. You will find dozens of tweets from outside Winnipeg defending Kane from the attacks he takes within the Winnipeg media. I’m sure Evander, who is named after a boxer and once took out Matt Cooke with a single punch, doesn’t need our help. The “trending article” is a Winnipeg Sun 200-word screwjob with the teaser “Where’s Evander?” and tagline “Jets forward a no-show on the ice.”
Credit to the Sun on this one, for at least publishing a single paragraph that is more than four lines of text long. Unfortunately, no graf is longer than two sentences. Here’s the meat of the piece:
It’s a question on the tip of a few tongues around Winnipeg this week. All but four members of the Jets have returned to Winnipeg to skate informally with their teammates, but Evander Kane isn’t one of them.
“a few tongues around Winnipeg” could mean anything from ‘Jets teammates returning from their lockout haunts, hoping that their best scorer is going to be back’ to ‘racist disc jockeys waiting to pounce on the next non-story’. “a few tongues” is the saving grace for the writer or reporter who asks a player in scrums “some people around town have suggested…” when both the player and reporter know perfectly well the people around town suggesting the player did awful things is the reporter himself.
And to some people, that’s okay, because at least the reporter is facing his target of criticism. Of course, if you walked up to Evander Kane and prefaced a question with “some people around town suggest that you’re awful, you hate Winnipeg, and you don’t try,” Kane’s more-than-appropriate reaction would not only be the focus of the ensuing commentary, but also confirm the reporters’ initial suspicions.
Plus, nice double-negative in the second sentence. Makes it seem like Kane was possibly not one of the four Jets players to not show up in Winnipeg this week.
You ready for the smoking gun?
Considering he’s only a three-hour flight away in Vancouver, some are wondering why he still wasn’t on the ice in Winnipeg on Thursday, although it’s believed he will be there on Friday.
“Evander Kane has not showed up yet! Oh, he’s coming today? Can I still write an article about it?”
Of all the dumb things Evander Kane has been criticized for in his life, not showing up to work three days early is right up there. Hang on though, the article, which has a soundbyte from Andrew Ladd, and then ends there, also has a poll:
Somehow, it’s gotten to the point where just 16% of Jets fans want to keep around their best young player. This is the result of Gary Lawless suggests that “Kane’s days in Winnipeg are numbered” before Kane played a single game under his new six-year deal signed in the summer, a Winnipeg Sun columnist suggesting Kane is a “showoff” and that “isn’t a Winnipeg thing”. The Sun, on the same day of the Twitter money phone controversy, ran a story about Kane’s struggles in the KHL.
These aren’t all awful things in a vacuum, but the agenda-setting by the local media helps shape the discussion, that manifests itself in the comments section. Former Jets Nation columnist Scott Taylor once wrote that Kane was “a big-city, 21st Century athlete in a small town that has never warmed to athletes”.
Perhaps that could be the problem. When Winnipeg’s first NHL team moved, the average player salary was less than half of what it is today, and the number of players who make what Kane makes could be counted on one hand, even if you lost a pair of fingers in a lawnmower accident. If blue-collar Winnipeg fans are as into the Jets as they say they are, they’re going to have to come around on the reality of modern NHL players. These are star athletes, paid handsomely for what they do, but also make richer people than themselves very rich. Athletes have no moral obligation to become honourary, accepted citizens of the city. Their obligations are to play, and the fans’ primary concern should be with whether or not his performance is any good. It just so happens Evander’s was.