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Patrick Kane poses after winning the Hart Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award and the Art Ross during the NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22 in Las Vegas. | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Few know extremes like Blackhawks’ Kane

SHARE Few know extremes like Blackhawks’ Kane
SHARE Few know extremes like Blackhawks’ Kane

Think about the year Patrick Kane has had, and tell me if your brain doesn’t start to unravel.

Mine sure does.

Just 10 months ago, a woman claimed he raped her on his bed in his suburban Buffalo, New York, mansion after a night of heavy drinking at a local bar. Photos eventually popped up on TV news showing the woman’s alleged bite marks and scratches and bruises, all supposedly inflicted by Kane.

Though Kane was never charged with sexual assault, it seemed that charges from the Erie County prosecutors’ office might come down at any time. Nobody outside local law enforcement had any idea what was going on in the he-said/she-said conflict.

Little was known, but much was feared.

Indeed, here was our star Blackhawks winger, the impish little blond kid, fresh from his third Stanley Cup championship, looking at God knows what kind of future.

A rape conviction can lead to years, even decades, in prison, depending on many things. It’s not like Kane was being investigated for, say, breaking a 62-year-old cabbie’s eyeglasses over a fare dispute. Been there, done that. No, this was serious.

In this country, rape is getting more and more real, which is why there has been such outrage over Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s recent minimal six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a campus party.

It’s not going too far to say that if Kane’s situation had been slightly different (the criminal case ultimately was dismissed because the defendant decided not to continue and because, as Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III said, “The DNA results lend no corroboration whatsoever to the complainant’s claim of penetration, a required element of proof for a rape charge”), his career might have been over.

So you flash forward almost a year, to June 22 in Las Vegas, at the NHL’s annual awards show, and you look at Patrick Kane now.

In his black tuxedo and black bow tie, with thinning blond locks, he soon becomes the most decorated American hockey player ever.

Forget the fact he broke Bobby Hull’s four-decade-old, single-season point streak back in December. And forget that earlier this night, he won the Art Ross Trophy after becoming the first U.S.-born player to lead the league in scoring, with 106 points.

He would receive the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player, as selected by his fellow players. And then, the cherry on top: the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. What was left? Nothing, really.

Imagine, Kane became the first U.S.-born player to win the Hart, the first in 91 years. Moreover, he was the first Blackhawk to win the award since Stan Mikita (our favorite Slovakian) almost half a century ago, in 1968.

Crazy, is all you can say. There are turnarounds, and then there’s what Kane went through.

I have no idea how he kept his composure while the criminal investigation was going on. Even if he knew he was innocent, and he was sure of his righteousness, the truth doesn’t always win in our court system.

He said in interviews after the award ceremony that “consistency” probably was the one thing that defined his stellar year. He always had thanked his teammates, and he thanked them again for helping along the way. His wild partying ways seem to have been put away, though who knows if they’re under wraps for good or if, like allergies or warts, they may pop out again sometime, to great embarrassment.

Word is Kane will spend his summer here in Chicago rather than going home to Buffalo and his pals from bygone days. That must be considered a good thing.

Remember, he has the potential to go down as the greatest American hockey player EVER. He’s only 27. His legacy lies before him like a path through the woods, with the emerald palace off in the distance.

The last year has been as up and down as any year should be for any athlete, for any person. Remember that NHL 16 video game box Kane was supposed to be on with his Hawks co-star Jonathan Toews? That honor got expunged, sent down the memory hole of never-happened.

Kane himself could have been there.

Maybe we all can exhale and relax a little bit.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

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