By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) It took until Veintinueve de Mayo, but we finally heard from the Blackhawks.
Patrick Kane went on a drunken, public spree that was photographed at every turn and chronicled by eyewitnesses. He planned it as such, apparently, since he made his own party-shirt that featured a picture of him (drinking) on the back, right under his cutesy-hockey nickname, “Kaner.”
He told the world who he was, what he was doing, declaring that he was ready for his close-up, and he thumbed his nose at bosses who had already asked him to stop such nonsense. Pretty please.
Curious that it took so long for the team to comment, considering the amount of evidence, both hard and soft. Blackhawks officials had gone completely dark until yesterday, when GM Stan Bowman held a conference call with reporters to discuss other things, but was asked about Kane.
Bowman said the team was “disappointed with how it played out.”
He needed three weeks to come up with that? A denunciation that limp could have been issued easily after the first mere glance at one of the pictures, let alone the Deadspin.com reports of the fighting, grabbing of women and police involvement. Anybody checking Twitter that weekend got to follow Kane’s adventures in real time, like tracking an electronically-tagged sea turtle.
But this is the ‘Hawks, and the local media that covers the ‘Hawks, so the treatment is different from that of the city’s other teams. Chicago hockey reporters too often prefer to protect players and coaches by accepting most everything they say, infected by a Stockholm syndrome of insulation, and uncomfortable with the kind of adversarial relationships that play out on every other beat.
It doesn’t take much digging, really. The Sun-Times now has team sources describing the real depth of concern, especially after multiple incidents. “He’s obviously got some issues,” one said. “How many more times can these things happen? It’s a much bigger thing than some photographs in a 48-hour window.” Another told the paper “When is he going to learn?”
WSCR also has learned that the team’s efforts to enlist the family’s help have been fruitless, stymied by a father who is difficult to deal with and has little desire to get involved.
It’s all part of a larger environment that continues to facilitate Kane’s immaturity.
Apologist, meathead fans are in one of three camps: either “He’s just a kid – like you didn’t do that when you were his age!” or “It’s none of your business! Who cares what he does on his own time!” or “That’s just how hockey is. I played hockey! You don’t understand!” Or some variant or combination of the three.
Kane is 23, older than guys like Chris Sale of the White Sox and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, only one month younger than the Bulls’ Derrick Rose and just five months younger than teammate Jonathan Toews, who also plays hockey, and is not doing the same things. There’s a reason Kaner is news.
As to who cares, the Blackhawks do. We may have had to endure almost a month of them not saying so, but now they’re on the record. Reason enough to drop the grass-roots defense.
And yes, that’s how hockey can be, with drinking a longtime part of the sport’s culture. That’s how it was for Pelle Lindbergh, Keith Magnuson and Rob Ramage, too. Adorable.
Fans enable Kane by excusing his actions, reporters enable him by lacking the desire to pursue the story, his employer enables him by refusing to take a hard, timely, public stance, and his family enables him by not cooperating with the attempts to intervene.
Also covering for him are the Chicago bar-owners, managers and bouncers who all have stories to tell – each one more spectacular than the last — but no courage to either speak on the record or involve authorities, lest there be bad publicity for their business. Kane has free run of the city, with that night’s taverns just hoping the storm moves along by itself, or discreetly ushering it out into the street, letting it swirl to whatever the next venue may be.
A young, major sports star in a top-three media market appears to be in need of help, but for now it’s still all in good fun.
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