Marian Hossa had just had one of his typical games — a couple of goals, some stellar defense, another victory. When a few reporters descended on his stall in the visitors’ locker room in Dallas that November night, Hossa instinctively reached back for his Blackhawks hat. It wasn’t there. He looked around for a moment, then sheepishly apologized and scurried off to another room before re-emerging with a hat on his head. The future Hall of Famer didn’t want to get scolded.
Team rules, you know. All players must wear Hawks shirts and hats during postgame interviews.
There probably isn’t a more image-conscious team in the NHL, if not all of professional sports, than the Blackhawks. John McDonough didn’t just help turn the Hawks into a force on the ice, he turned them into a well-oiled public-relations machine. They work in the community. They sign autographs for fans. They do loads of charity work. They tweet out pictures of their adorable kids. They smile for the camera and always say the right thing. It might make for mundane copy sometimes, but it’s made the Hawks a near-universally admired and respected team around the league, and a beloved one in Chicago.
Simply put, the Hawks are the model franchise, on and off the ice.
Which is why Patrick Kane might be done in Chicago. And why maybe he should be.
It’s still uncertain if the Hawks are seriously considering trading Kane in light of an ongoing police investigation in Hamburg, N.Y. But if they are, they won’t have any trouble finding any takers.
At least five teams contacted the Hawks once the Buffalo News first reported the investigation — which involves Kane and a woman at his Hamburg home — and said they’d be willing trade partners should the Hawks decide to cut ties with their superstar winger, according to a league source. The 26-year-old is entering the first year of a record-setting eight-year, $84-million contract.
Kane has not been charged with a crime — and that can’t be said enough — for the events of Aug. 2, which are being investigated by both police and the district attorney’s office. But another source said that Hawks brass had sternly warned Kane not to put himself in any more bad situations — and put the team in a negative light — after his much-publicized Cinco de Mayo escapades in Madison, Wis., in 2012. That was supposed to be his last strike.
So regardless of the legal outcome of the investigation, Kane’s future with the team is murky at best. To be clear, there has been no firm indication yet that the Hawks truly are willing to take that drastic step. But it’s a step the Hawks must consider.
Training camp opens in a little more than two weeks. Will Kane be there, swarmed by local, regional and national press for his first comments since the investigation began? Will he not be there, fueling rampant speculation and uncomfortable questions for his teammates to dance around? Will the Hawks suspend him until the district attorney decides whether to file charges or not, just to be safe? Will the league step in and do it for them, making the Hawks look tentative and weak? And how long might the DA take? Weeks? Months? All year? A black cloud hanging over the Hawks everywhere they go as they defend their third Stanley Cup in six seasons?
Every one of these scenarios is bad for the Hawks. Trading Kane isn’t.
Yes, you’d lose one of the best players in the world. Yes, a segment of your fan base would be livid. But you’d get a massive haul in return. You’d free up a massive amount of salary-cap room. And you’d earn a massive amount of respect for putting your foot down and saying enough is enough.
Kane’s on-ice legacy is already secure at just 26 years old. He helped bring three Stanley Cups to Chicago. He helped revitalize hockey in Chicago. He’s a true superstar, a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him player like few before him. He’s always been good to fans, he’s always been close with his teammates, he’s always been one of the hardest workers on the team. But there’s an off-ice responsibility, too. One Kane hasn’t lived up to. As one team source put it, he “disrespected” the team and his teammates by once again putting himself in a bad situation.
Any other player, it would probably be different. But as that source put it, the Hawks have run out of patience.
Since the news of the investigation broke on Aug. 6, Kane has been removed from the cover of the popular EA Sports NHL ’16 video game. And his junior team, the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, took Kane’s name off one of their training camp teams. They were quick, decisive moves to distance themselves from an unfortunate and toxic situation.
Your move, Hawks.