Life is good right now for Evander Kane.
The 26-year-old Vancouver native just came off his first-ever post-season in his NHL career, recently signed a seven-year, $49-million deal and, most importantly, loves playing hockey again.
And he owes it all to the San Jose Sharks.
In a recent post on The Players’ Tribune, Kane reflected on his first half-season in San Jose and finally feeling like he belongs in the NHL.
[blockquote] A few days after I arrived and had played a few games, I went for a walk with Timo Meier down Santana Row — a great street outside downtown. And I must have been stopped 40 times by Sharks fans. No joke. Timo said he had never seen anything like that. So many of them told me what the Sharks meant to them — how hard it was to lose in the Cup finals in 2016, and how desperately they wanted me to help them get back there.
I sort of thought I’d get to San Jose, walk down the streets in shorts every day and nobody would recognize me … but this city isn’t just a Sharks town — it’s a hockey town with a bunch of hockey nuts. Burnzie was right. And the best part about that day with Timo was getting back to my apartment, sitting on the couch and realizing that people wanted me there.[/blockquote]
Kane’s emphasis on being wanted is important to note as he explains in the piece that while he felt that sense of belonging in Atlanta, when the Thrashers were moved to Winnipeg, something was lost there, to the point that he was even requesting to be moved almost every season after he signed that six-year, $31.5-million deal with the club.
[blockquote] I want to explain some things about my time in Atlanta and Winnipeg.
I loved Atlanta. I felt I had a special connection with those fans. I was a black athlete, playing in a city with a large black population, in a sport with not many black players. I felt a responsibility to that city and especially to the young, minority girls and boys who came to our games. That’s why when the team left for Winnipeg it was so hard to accept. It had nothing to do with where we were going — it just felt like I had failed somehow, even though there was nothing I really could have done.
I wish things had gone differently in Winnipeg, because I was excited to go to a market that was so passionate about hockey. But it became clear, pretty quickly, that it wasn’t the right fit. It was a combination of things. First, it was frustrating not to have success on the ice. I had been in the NHL for five years and never experienced a winning season. I play to win. That, for me, is the best thing about hockey. So after every season in Winnipeg, I requested a trade. And each summer, nothing happened. But no matter the situation off the ice, my play and effort never changed. So I played my ass off for the Jets, because that was all there was to do.[/blockquote]
And as for his reputation in Winnipeg of being something of a spoiled brat, Kane echoed some of the same sentiments he made back in March when he spoke to Hockey Night in Canada’s Scott Oake about the infamous money photo and why he thinks the game of hockey suffers from a lack of personality.
[blockquote]Why does hockey culture shun people for embracing the entertainment side of the game? I think it’s an ingrained idea that players who show personality — who show some flair — are somehow selfish or a distraction to their team. I’m not playing the victim card here — I know the repercussions of posting a photo with a stack of money in your hand. But look at the NBA. Look at how that league promotes its players and their individuality. It’s not considered selfish, and it’s not frowned upon.
I see it like this: Being myself and trying to have some fun with it is good for the organization, which is good for the league, which is good for the game. The leagues that encourage self-promotion, identity and originality … well, to be honest, they make a lot more money than the NHL does. And in doing so, they can grow their game more. Because isn’t that what we’re trying to do here? I want more young boys and girls to experience where hockey can take them. We can do that, all while accepting the uniqueness of our players.[/blockquote]
Kane particularly takes offence to the notion that he was just another spoiled rich kid, as it speaks to nothing of his upbringing.
[blockquote] My family lived in southeast Vancouver, and I shared a room with my two sisters. My side was blue, theirs was pink. We weren’t rich. We were a team. My sisters and I were very lucky to have the parents we had growing up.
From the age of three, to the time I got to the NHL, I skated almost every day. My dad and I would train every day since I was 10 at 6 AM and spend two hours there before school, and we’d do drill after drill after drill until I was the best I could be.
I earned my NHL money after 18 years of sacrifice by my parents, my sisters and myself.[/blockquote]
Kane also talks a little about his time in Buffalo in the story and goes into more detail into just why, at last, he feels so at home in San Jose.