As the old adage goes: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
For Evander Kane, that expression rings especially true.
Flashback to December 2012 when the Winnipeg Jets had just come back and Kane, then only 21 years old and originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers, posted this infamous photo to Twitter:
The timing of the photo probably wasn’t the best as he had recently signed a big six-year, $31.5-million contract extension with the Jets, followed by the NHL going through with a lockout. The picture led to much negative backlash from fans as he appeared to be flaunting his wealth – a definite no-no amongst the unwritten rules of hockey.
But what about basketball and football?
Speaking to Scott Oake during Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” segment following the San Jose Sharks’ – Kane’s new team – 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night, the now-26-year-old Vancouver native addressed that photo again and, specifically, the culture around hockey and the NHL when compared to the NBA and NFL.
“Obviously that picture had a lot of mixed reviews,” Kane said. “I understand the timing of it, but I was a young kid with some free time, having some fun and, like [Oake mentions], in the NBA, NFL that wouldn’t get a second look.
“It’s happened before. You have Wes Welker at the Kentucky Derby throwing money after he won the race. I think in the NHL it’s a little bit of an older mindset and I think you have to try to stay within that, but I think it’s important to show that personality and show people – players, specifically – who are willing to show that personality because that’s what’s going to help grow the game and sell the game.”
The topic of discussion came up when Oake made reference to a San Jose Mercury News story from Paul Gackle that explores inherent racism within hockey’s culture and why a player like Kane – a black man – is a much better fit in a more racially diverse area like California’s Bay Area.
“I was in Atlanta for my first two years and those were very smooth years,” Kane told Gackle. “Then, we got sold to Winnipeg and things changed. I didn’t change, so it’s interesting how things happen.”
“If you don’t acknowledge [the racial element] to some degree, you’re living in the shadows. It’s an older mentality and something that [hockey] hasn’t caught up to. There’s nothing wrong with lights, camera, action and embracing the entertainment side of sports. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough guys who want to do that or think it’s important to do that. If you look at the four major sports, that’s why hockey ranks fourth.”
Kane spent four years in Winnipeg before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in February 2015. His time with the Jets didn’t end the most amicably as it was rumoured he clashed with the coaching staff and teammates for alleged behavioural issues.
The Sabres flipped Kane to the Sharks at the trade deadline this past February. In the midst of one of his best seasons as a pro, Kane has 50 points and 25 goals split between Buffalo and San Jose.
He’s off to a flying start with the Sharks, recording 10 points and five goals in nine games played with this new team, including a four-goal night Friday against the Calgary Flames.
Took me 9 years in the @NHL but was worth the wait. Happy I was able to get my first trick with this group of guys! @SanJoseSharks Huge win! pic.twitter.com/sqW6UtwAvL
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) March 17, 2018
Set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, given his productivity with the Sharks so far and the chemistry he’s appeared to build with the club in a such a short time, it’s looking like Kane may have found a home at long last.