Oilers give Kane, and all his faults, another chance to write a new narrative

New addition to the Edmonton Oilers Evander Kane, speaks to media in Edmonton, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (Jason Franson/CP)

EDMONTON — If there is one moment that stands alone from Evander Kane’s introductory press conference on Friday morning in Edmonton, one loose thought that crystallized what the 30-year-old Kane has learned during a life of tumult, it is this one:

“I think everyone in this room has probably made a lot of mistakes. They’re just not documented. They’re just not publicly recorded. They’re not questioned.”

It was like Joey Chestnut saying, “Hey, we’ve all had the odd hot dog.”

But truthfully, how many have actually found themselves in court, alleged to have assaulted both man and woman in separate and multiple incidents? And who among us has ever walked out on a $500,000 marker at a Vegas casino? Who here has have ever been chucked out of three separate places of employment — NHL teams — with a “Good riddance!” and an ever-diminishing rate of return on each transaction?

Let thee who has not piled up a reported $26.8 million in debt and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy cast the first stone.

“I understand the narrative,” he later said, hinting that his reputation was somehow concocted, perhaps by biased journalists or jealous teammates. “It’s easy to look at me, just because the storylines are that I have always been the destructive one.

“To say that I didn’t get along with everyone in the locker room is incredibly false. It’s less than a handful of guys,” Kane continued, parroting something that — at least on Friday — nobody said. “It goes both ways. When there are leaks coming from your dressing room to the media, I wouldn’t say that is good active leadership, or being a productive teammate. And they definitely didn’t come from me.”

This is Evander Kane, a young-ish man who has stated he has sought and currently undergoes counselling, a very positive step. Kane, in essence, is saying: let’s get past the fact I did things. That people talked about them, now there’s the problem.

Complex? Oh boy, is Evander Kane complex.

In 35 years of interviewing athletes, I have never encountered such a combination: genuine, documented legal troubles; such absolute determination to absolve oneself of responsibility for whatever part of it Kane can shed doubt on.

The sports world is littered with athletes whose faults, or addictions, have led them to dark places. Try covering boxing in the ‘80s. But, in our experience, those athletes will tell you they are past them, whether they are or not.

They’re clean now. They’re in the best shape of their life. They’re not the guy/girl they used to be.

But Kane?

Kane is not some con man trying to convince us that he is rehabilitated, or cured of whatever dragged him down in his past.

To hear him talk, those problems we’ve been reading about for the past decade never actually existed. They’re just a “narrative,” or a “storyline.”

Like his departures from Winnipeg (where the leadership group demanded he be removed from the locker room), Buffalo (where a woman filed a civil lawsuit, alleging Kane sexually assaulted her) and San Jose (where he forged a Covid document before the Sharks voided the contract of their leading scorer from last season).

Politely, Kane was asked about having left those teams under “cloudy” circumstances. It was my question, and it was intentionally soft.

“I don’t know that I would necessarily agree in terms of, ‘everywhere I’ve been I’ve left under cloudy circumstances,” began Kane. “Yes, definitely different things have happened through the course of certain tenures in certain places.

“You know, there are a lot of guys who play for a lot more teams than just three. So I’m not alone there.”

Read that again: “Certain tenures in certain places.” That is Kane’s way of describing every tenure in every place he has ever played.

Moving on, from that soft question he projected on to every other player who has been moved or traded, like his transactions have essentially been no different than, say, Zach Hyman’s or Mark Giordano’s.

Look, I am only a sports writer. I have not the tools to diagnose what this kind of manipulation means. I think I know how they play out in the context of a hockey team and a dressing room, but big picture, I’m more Lucy from the Peanuts than Sigmund Freud.

It takes a professional to truly diagnose what this level of denial, of obfuscation really means. I am not that professional, and likely, you are not either.

“You know, I view myself as a leader,” Kane continued. “It’s funny what people think. That I’m some kid on the playground who is going to destruct everything. That’s just not the case.

“I’ve had a lot of experience on and off the ice, and I try to share those experiences with guys on the team. Try to help them not to make the same mistakes that I have.”

Here is what we know. When the game starts, Kane is a very good hockey player.

“He’s big, strong, he has a physical presence. He’s willing to fight anyone,” said Oilers alternate captain Darnell Nurse. “Anytime he gets the puck in the right spots it’s in the back of the net. With the passers and playmakers we have on the team, adding that into the fold makes our team better.”

Edmonton is easy to play against. Kane will help with that.

“I like to play with an edge and a bit of a mean streak,” said Kane, who thinks he can add, “Just a little bit different of an identity, maybe, than (the Oilers) have had in the past.”

Kane is signed, and the Oilers are ready to give him a chance.

Here’s hoping the “narrative” changes.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.