NEWARK, N.J. — The legal process is over for Patrick Kane, who will not be charged in connection with a sexual assault allegation. But the scrutiny is far from over. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday that the league will continue its own investigation into what happened on Aug. 2 in Hamburg, N.Y. The league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players gives the NHL broad powers to suspend players for conduct that is “detrimental to or against the welfare of the league or the game of hockey.”
“In light of the statement issued today by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, as an internal league matter, we intend to promptly review the information that may now be available to us,” Daly said. “We will have no further comment until we have completed that review.”
The league was mum on what that investigation might entail. But Nellie Drew, a sports law expert and professor at the University of Buffalo who previously served as an outside counsel for the NHL and a team attorney for the Buffalo Sabres, said the league likely has already conducted an investigation.
“It’s not required that someone be indicted or be guilty of a crime to be disciplined,” Drew said. “But it is certainly less likely now that the NHL will impose discipline. I would suspect that, given their decision not to act while this was pending in the DA’s office, that suggests they were not convinced that something that warranted discipline occurred. You saw the NHL act so quickly in the Slava Voynov case, so the fact that they have not gotten involved says they have doubt.”
Voynov, the Los Angeles Kings defenseman, was suspended immediately by the league last October when he was arrested on a domestic violence charge. He is now in Russia, his NHL career finished.
“If there was any evidence out there at all that was along the lines of what has happened in any of the other professional sports cases we have heard about recently, and i mean any evidence at all along those lines, I am sure the NHL would have acted swiftly,” Drew said. “The current climate in sports is one in which the NHL would not take any chances waiting.”