Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Sabres forward and ex-Winnipeg Jet Evander Kane is off to a difficult start to the season.
The ace volume shooter will be sidelined for up to six weeks as a result to a left knee injury sustained this week when he feel awkwardly into the boards. In his first eight games with the much-improved Sabres, Kane has only managed one goal and two assists while playing to a dash eight on the sheet.
While inconsistency and controversy have plagued Kane throughout his young NHL career, the one thing he’s reliably excelled at is racking up shots – whether they’re shots on net, or shots at Winnipeg’s intolerance in the press. Kane unloaded again in a recent interview with The Hockey News, which the Winnipeg Free Press obtained an advance copy of. During the course of that conversation Kane admitted that a trade request out of Winnipeg was an annual occurrence, that he felt the Jets organization didn’t have his back, and that he believes that racism shaped a good deal of the criticism of his behaviour.
Let’s parcel through some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) from Kane’s upcoming interview with Ken Campbell of the Hockey News. On the subject of the trade, Kane was unequivocal: he was relieved to finally leave WInnipeg and had been trying to orchestrate such a move for a while.
“Something I asked for a long time finally came to fruition,” Kane said of the deal that sent him to Buffalo. “Yeah, I asked for a trade every off-season in Winnipeg.”
That Kane insisted annually on a trade and the Jets resisted is a pretty interesting thing to note, actually. We know how committed this Jets 2.0 organization is to developing and home-grown talent, but perhaps this story illustrates just how pathological they are about it. It even took Kane, who asked for a trade every summer, the better part of four years to extricate himself from Winnipeg. And during that time he was extended with a lucrative contract…
While the Jets paid Kane and were clearly reluctant to move him (at least until they weren’t), when it came to snuffing out controversies or appreciating his ability to play through pain, the 24-year-old power forward never felt as if the organization had his back.
“I was playing with a separated shoulder for a year and a half,” Kane told Campbell. “I had a broken ankle and a broken hand all at the same time. It wasn’t me telling myself I had a torn labrum. It was the team doctor on the Winnipeg Jets telling me, ‘You need surgery, and that’s the only way you’re going to get fixed. You have a broken ankle. You have a broken hand.’
“I’m sacrificing my body playing through pain, doing everything I can to help that team win with the feeling knowing guys don’t have my back. I feel the organization doesn’t have my back, and you feel unappreciated.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice commented on this particular charge to Scott Campbell of the Free Press on Monday.
“He played through an awful lot of pain and we really appreciated it,” Maurice said of Kane’s comments. “But I’m not coming out here and giving you a list of injuries of guys that are playing with them, because they’re playing with them.
“There’s no sense drawing targets on backs. I’m sorry he felt that way. I certainly appreciated him playing through those injuries.”
Maurice may have appreciated it, but you can understand from Kane’s perspective why his teammates’ crass internal disciplinary measures – taken at a time when he was putting a badly injured body on the line for the club – struck him as particularly disrespectful considering his health status.
Finally in discussing the way he was received by Jets fans during his time in Winnipeg, Kane suggested that racism was a big part of why he was never embraced locally.
“There are lots of guys I could point to that everybody knows publicly who have done a lot worse or been accused of doing a lot worse things than I have,” Kane said. “But they don’t look like me. They don’t look like me.”
Look, if you don’t buy that Kane’s skin colour has played a role in influencing the way he’s discussed in hockey circles, whether they’re fan circles, media circles, or what have you, well, then I think you’re incredibly naive…
The sum of Kane’s comments are pretty explosive. He’s an outspoken young man, which is great for our business, even if that’s perhaps part of why he was never fully embraced by the Jets faithful in Winnipeg. Writing over at her River City Renegade blog, award-winning sports writer Patti Dawn Swanson suggests that this latest kerfuffle proves once again that Kane isn’t over Winnipeg and Winnipeg isn’t over Kane:
So here’s what I’m wondering: Why do so many people give a damn what Evander Kane thinks about the Jets and Winnipeg?
I know I don’t. Sure, I write about Kane, because he’s fun fodder and I get a kick out of him. I used to enjoy it when he’d yank the media’s chain, often playing cat to their mouse. But get my knickers in a knot over his parting shots at Winnipeg? Puh-leeze. So what if he asked for a new area code every summer and lied about it? He wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, athlete who’s wanted out of Winnipeg and told fibs. The Jets didn’t have his back? Oh, boo freaking hoo.
As for his playing the race card (again), only those of a similar skin hue can say for certain if they’ve experienced discrimination or other forms of ill-treatment based solely on pigmentation. But if you believe racism doesn’t exist in good, ol’ Hometown, you might want to speak with one of your Native neighbors about that.
Look, Kane and Winnipeg didn’t work. He wanted the fast lane and he got caught in a collector lane. You like your athletes humble and respectful, he’s loud, vain and swashbuckling. It happens. The thing is, he hasn’t gotten over you and you haven’t gotten over him. Come on, admit it.
The lingering resentment and enmity on both sides of this is evident. And those feeling should serve to make the Sabres’ visit to Winnipeg on January 10 a particularly interesting one. I’d imagine the MTS Centre will be as quiet as a library for that one, said nobody ever.