Patrick Kane is amusing when drunk, and not just because he inspires fantastic Photoshop contests.
He's the kind of guy who parties with his buddies, wearing T-shirts that depicted a shirtless Kane partying in the back of a limo in Vancouver. The kind of 23-year-old whose reaction to the end of his season is to head to Madison, WI for a weekend of drunken debauchery. An NHL player whose drunken exploits, dalliances with women and occasional interactions with cab drivers have earned Kane his own department on Deadspin.
He's also the guy who got stuck in a cherry-picker above the streets of Buffalo and partied with Jimmy Buffett and was absolutely sloshed at the Chicago Blackhawks' Cup parade, after he scored the game-winning OT goal to win it. We live vicariously through it, and laugh along when things get sitcom-ish -- remember the post-coital photos?
Back in 2010, when the Blackhawks won, it was Kaner being Kaner, rehabilitating his reputation after cabbie incident. In 2012, after the Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round, the sports media want him to rehabilitate something else.
Is it a puritanical or practical reaction? And by that we mean: Is Patrick Kane drinking himself out of Chicago? (Which, having visited the city on several occasions, is damn hard to do. Especially with the Wiener's Circle open so late for sobering up.)
If you're not up on Kane's latest exploits, Deadspin pieced together a Cinco de Mayo weekend in Madison, WI, in which Kane was accused of:
• Blacking out at multiple bars.
• Judging women and "straight being a douche right to their faces."
• Getting kicked out of a Kappa Sig party for allegedly "trying to choke a girl."
• Getting into "a confrontation with a group of guys over a some supposed anti-Semitic comments." Being questioned by police about that incident.
Did Kane do anything illegal during this wild weekend? Not according to police, via Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago:
The Dane County (Wis.) DA's office said Monday that there are no charges against Kane. According to the Madison police department, a sergeant did have contact with Kane, "but whatever his behavior was it did not rise to the level of an arrest."
His greatest crime, it would seem, is getting sloppy intoxicated in a culture where cell phones capture everything, and his media critics believe he's sullying the reputation of the Blackhawks.
Coming up on a summer immediately following one in which the hockey world was darkened by death, it would appear the Blackhawks, the NHL and the NHLPA have an obligation to intervene in the matter of Kane, a partier of some previous renown whose documented exploits on a college campus present a harbinger of trouble.
Kane can be scolded to grow up. He can be reprimanded. He can be sent to his room, to alcohol rehab, to anger management and to sensitivity training. Nothing will come of it until he feels compelled to emerge a better person, regardless of the athlete inside that person.
Kane needs an epiphany, maybe a trade to Winnipeg, an arrest on serious charges or God forbid something even more dramatic. Who knows, maybe it'll never happen?
Maybe the Hawks' silence isn't because they're hoping this goes away but because they're fighting to see who gets the honor of making the problem child go away.
There's a rule in hockey that resounds from the dressing room out: Your best players have to be your leaders and your leaders have to be your best players. Kane is hardly a leader. There's no reason to trust him.
And yet, he's still here.
The silence from Hawks wonks tells me they think Kane is guilty. Their inertia tells me they don't know what to do or how to trade him. It's obvious the Hawks can't trust Kane, but if he's not traded, how can fans trust the organI-zation?
If you Googled "Patrick Kane'' on Saturday, the first item that came up was "Patrick Kane's drunken weekend.'' That's not something the image-conscious Blackhawks want when they're trying to sell themselves to families. That's not what you want 8-year-old Timmy seeing when he's researching his favorite player for a school report.
Athletes are role models, whether they want to be or not. It comes with the money and the fame. Your every move is watched, analyzed and judged. Some of those moves are emulated, even the stumbling-drunk ones.
I don't want to go all Puritan on Kane here. It can't be overstated that he's 23. But does his, um, enthusiasm have to be so public? Is it really necessary for him to dance on a bar top with a bottle in his hand (see YouTube)? Is taking off your shirt in a club a prerequisite to having a good time? No one is saying he needs to turn into the Church Lady, but he doesn't always have to be Mr. Party. Not every outing has to be a public spectacle.
Players vacation/party/let loose in the offseason. They always have. In the "good-old days" things were swept under the rug or flat-out ignored. But this is a different time. There is no such thing as off limits, and that's especially true when the subject puts himself out there so visibly.
So far, the incidents haven't cost him. His latest behavior has led to team silence and likely some headaches, but no charges. On the ice Kane had a solid season, adjusting to the center position well and putting up decent numbers in the process. But what happens when the off-ice bad starts outweighing the on-ice good?
We'll defer to the beat writers on whether Kane's partying has adversely affected his play. No one's said that outright — yet. But Sam Fels penned this last summer (June 2011) after another Deadspin report, and it still seems valid:
In my opinion, and that's all it is, Patrick Kane has a problem that he needs to address. When the Hawks gutted their depth, they could sleep at night, sure that Kane's game would again make a leap and he'd hint at the 90-100 points that he's always seemed capable of. But he hasn't. His game has plateaued, and at 22 that just doesn't seem right.
Kane's behavior and flippant comments about his reputation speaks to someone taking the game and his talent for it for granted. There are few bigger crimes for a gifted athlete. I can only hope he treats this added scrutiny the way he did about the cab incident, proving us wrong on the ice. It's one of the Hawks few hopes.
If it's not about his health, the issue appears to be one of image, both Kane's and the Blackhawks'. He keeps putting himself in situations where his behavior is captured for posterity on the Internet, to the point where one can only assume it's by design; that Kane either doesn't care how he's portrayed or there's a facet of him that enjoys being the NHL's face of the lush life.
For the Blackhawks … well, we can imagine there are some inherent challenges to the communications department when one of your star players turns into Joe Francis at season's end. It can even be argued that Kane's in violation of the morals clause of his SPC:
"[Players agrees] to conduct himself on and off the rink according to the highest standards of honesty, morality, fair play and sportsmanship, and to refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interest of the Club, the League or professional hockey generally."
It's a nebulous part of the contract, and probably wouldn't stand, but that's the point many in the media are making: That Kane's conduct has been detrimental to the team, to the point where he ruined 8-year-old Timmy's book report because his web search returned the Deadspin story. (WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF TIMMY?!)
Not everyone is marching Kane to Betty Ford. From Ree at Blackhawks O'Clock:
You all keep saying you know that Kane is a young party-boy so unless there's something I am missing, aside from your opinion that he should "grow up," I fail to see the outlandishness of this all. Ok, we get it, if he were your son (or brother, or whatever), you would sit down and tell him to go easy on Grandpa's old cough medicine. Cool, that's your opinion, but as it stands, none of this affects you personally and it's not affecting the team (their last game was April 23, in case you've forgotten). So...say your piece and carry on. Stop harping on it and barking out ridiculous calls to action.
I'd get why the reports are so virulent if he was a convicted felon who is getting away with murder, however as it stands he is just a talented Player who chooses to go out and party with his friends on his own time.
Props to Blackhawks PR for not addressing any of this because to do that would admit that this is even relevant, and it's not.
Midwest Sports Fans, meanwhile, are just upset he decided to party in Madison.
This is a tricky one. I can sympathize with the spot the Blackhawks are in and the sportswriters pleading that Kane knock off the public intoxication. It's preachy, but I think it comes from a place of genuine concern.
But I can also sympathize with Patrick Kane, whose sins including being a fit, 23-year-old famous person that like to get loaded at bars and parties, and being accused of missing practice because of a two-day hangover.
Remember when TJ Oshie of the Blues missed practice and then was benched for two games because he missed practice due to, er, foibles? Thank god there's not a TJ Oshie beat on the Internet.
Or a beat that covers your party nights, or my party nights. One of the greatest days I've had in years was in Vegas, in which I drunkenly walked up and down the strip, to sportsbooks and casinos, before really getting my Vegas on that evening. We've all had'em. The ultimate question is whether you're putting yourself in a situation in which you embarrass your family or employer or other proxies or whether you're just doing what millions of others do on their off time -- and that you can't control what ends up on the Internet.
Luckily for me, I never assaulted a cabbie or scored a game-winning goal to capture the Stanley Cup, so no one cared.
OK, I might I have done one of the two. But that's only because a defenseman deflected it on the way to the net.