Why it’s not wrong for Kane to be at Blackhawks camp

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane says he has the utmost respect for the legal process, and is confident that he’ll be absolved of all wrongdoing.

Few seem to like the fact the Chicago Blackhawks have invited Patrick Kane to their training camp. That seems clear, based on the columns and headlines and general commentary.

The Hawks are OK with it, needless to say, and clearly Kane is OK with it, as are his advisers. The NHL? That’s unclear, although it seems at least possible the league really wasn’t consulted at all, or told the club this decision was theirs to make. Hawks president John McDonough only said the team spoke to Kane’s "legal representatives" about the decision, and that was it.

So just the Hawks and Kane’s lawyers, both highly motivated to get him into camp regardless of any impact that may have on the league or the sport.

Those who passionately say Kane shouldn’t be there argue their case on two points.

First, they would argue it is an affront to women and the ugly problem of violence against women to allow Kane to get on with his life while it’s being decided whether he should be charged with rape.

It’s a fair argument. But he hasn’t been charged, and may never be charged. A grand jury will decide that, and while many prefer to rush to judgment and presume guilt, the fact is that Kane is not only innocent until proven guilty, he isn’t even facing a criminal charge at the moment.

To those who suggest he should stay away anyways, there is the question of what if the charges are proven baseless. Then what? Kane says he’s "confident" his name will be cleared and that, ladies and gentlemen, is about all we really know here.

Perhaps his confidence is misplaced, or perhaps he is hopelessly misguided on this issue. We don’t really know whether he gets "no means no." Or what consent means. Or whether any of these issues matter at all.

Since he may have done nothing wrong.

Now, you can argue the Hawks, if they were mindful of perception and public opinion, should have told him to stay away from camp anyway.

Sure, but you can argue equally that it would be patently unfair to do so at least until a grand jury has something to say, and that may be nothing. These are thorny issues for professional leagues to deal with, as the NFL surely learned with Ray Rice and the NHL experienced with Slava Voynov, but in the total absence of evidence or public information at this point regarding Kane’s involvement with the woman in question, it may not necessarily be smart to let him come to camp, but it’s not patently wrong either. Not at this point.

The second argument says the Hawks shouldn’t be letting him skate with the team because this is a "distraction."

What a load that is. First of all, it’s pre-season, and the Hawks don’t play a regular-season game until Oct. 7. What distraction? The team is recalibrating its lineup after having to make some roster deletions to accommodate, among other things, Kane’s new eight-year, $84-million contract, and that’s a big distraction. Otherwise, the Hawks have dealt with many internal and external distractions over the years, and having a player not charged with a crime in camp isn’t likely to throw the defending champions way off kilter.

"We’ll be fine," said head coach Joel Quenneville. His team may not be as good this fall or this season, but if that happens there will be many reasons, including having less talent than it did a year ago. My guess is that Kane will be kept well hidden from the media for the immediate future, and teams in this age of private entrances and dressing rooms with multiple side rooms can do that quite effectively these days. So how he’ll be a distraction is unclear, unless he’s charged with a criminal offence.

You may be offended with the way Kane refused to answer any questions, but only an idiot would in the face of legal problems. So why bring him out? Probably to avoid accusations that the team was hiding him, or that he was hiding.

You may also not like the way McDonough made this decision, or accuse him of being "tone deaf" to the issue of violence against women, but he has an employee who, it’s at least possible, has indeed done nothing wrong other than put himself in a situation where he could be open to accusations.

If that changes, the Hawks can change their approach. Indeed, the league would likely insist at that point, although again Kane’s right to be presumed innocent even if charged becomes a problematic issue. Semyon Varlamov, remember, kept on playing through charges of domestic abuse until those charges were dropped.

The more frustrating problem for the Chicago hockey team at this moment is that it has $84 million invested in a hockey player who has been in trouble in a very public way on three separate occasions in recent years. Some would tell you Kane has matured. Of that there is slender supporting evidence.

He’s 26 years old and the most prominent U.S.-born player in the league right now, but he likes to go home to Buffalo in the off-season and party, regardless of the consequences, while apparently believing he can play by his own set of rules.

Maybe this problem goes away, but only a fool would bet there won’t be another problem.

So we’ll see where this goes. If the grand jury wants to indict, this situation could change drastically, and quickly.

If it doesn’t choose to indict, well then what will be said of Kane by all those who say he has no business being around an NHL training camp right now?

There could come a time when Kane should be told to go home. But unless he wants that, or until the Hawks do, he should freely go to work, whether that’s popular or not.

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