Evander Kane has somehow been in the NHL for 12 years. That’s not an insult to his abilities ‒ he finished last season with an impressive 49 points in 56 games ‒ it’s a comment of surprise, considering his name has consistently been in the news throughout his career. Although this has especially been the case for him this year, it started nearly a decade ago when he was a member of the Winnipeg Jets. So why did it take until he faked his COVID-19 vaccination card for him to get suspended for one of his many off-ice scandals?
While he hasn’t faked an official document before, this is far from the first time Kane has found himself in the middle of a controversy. The first were all the way back in 2012 when Kane was continuously benched by head coach Claude Noel, causing rumours that there was tension between the two of them. These rumours would continue throughout Kane’s entire time in Winnipeg under Noel and succeeding coach Paul Maurice. Maurice would later make Kane a healthy scratch and tell the media that if he wanted to be in the lineup, he needed to come to the rink.
Kane’s main problems in Winnipeg were caused by his behaviour within the team. The most famous example of this is considered the tipping point which led to him being traded in February of 2015. After violating team policy by wearing a tracksuit to the rink, Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien threw Kane’s clothes in the shower to teach him a lesson about taking the team’s standards seriously. Kane then skipped the next game, had season-ending shoulder surgery, and was traded to the Buffalo Sabres.
Later, Kane would say that he felt the Jets just traded their problem away instead of trying to help him through his issues, but is the blame really on the Jets in this situation? Sure, Kane was young and part of the Jets in their first season after moving from Atlanta, which would have been a lot to adjust to. However, that’s not really an excuse; he’s an adult and should know how to handle himself. The situations that caused tension between him and the team were, ultimately, results of his decisions. This will be a continuing theme.
During the three years that Kane was with the Buffalo Sabres, besides being benched for missing practice after going to the NBA All-Star Game, the scandals moved to things outside of hockey. In the summer of 2016, Kane pleaded not guilty to one count of criminal trespassing and four counts of non-criminal harassment, charges which stemmed from an incident at a Buffalo nightclub. This was the first time charges were actually filed against him. The case was eventually adjourned and dismissed, but it caused Sabres management to publicly comment on how Kane’s incidents had not been good for the organization. Unlike Winnipeg, however, they didn’t “trade their problem away” following this. Instead, they kept him until the 2018 trade deadline, when they sent him to the San Jose Sharks. After joining the Sharks, he was barely in the news for a few years. Then this year, everything seemingly happened at once.
In January, Kane filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing that he had amassed $26.8 million in debt. It was revealed in his claim that $1.5 million of this was lost from gambling in the previous 12 months. After finishing the season, the biggest headlines this summer were various allegations from his estranged wife. The first was allegations of domestic abuse and neglect of their daughter. The other was accusations that he betted on hockey games, including his own ‒ a very serious and illegal offense.
Since these stories broke, the NHL has done a full investigation into the gambling allegations. In the end, no evidence was found to prove that they were true, and this specific controversy of his is now considered closed. That being said, the NHL has stated that they have the right to investigate any new information that comes out related to Kane’s gambling. Kane himself has admitted to having a gambling problem and working towards moving on from it.
As for the domestic abuse, Kane and his wife are in the middle of divorce proceedings. While the allegations have not been proven one way or the other as of yet, they seemingly aren’t being taken as seriously as any of his other controversies. This is largely because the NHL does not have a domestic violence policy and thus legally do not have reason to suspend a player for those types of allegations. Of course, this is not limited to Kane’s situation and is part of a much larger issue within the NHL, however, it is rather disappointing that nobody seems to care about it.
Then, of course, there’s his current suspension. On October 18th, Kane was suspended without pay for 21 games (over a quarter of the regular season) as a result of violating COVID-19 protocol, specifically faking his vaccination card. That suspension will be up when the Sharks play the New Jersey Devils on November 30th, and the clock is ticking for the Sharks to figure out what to do with him when that happens.
The issue isn’t even that he’s unvaccinated. Although the NHL encourages players to be vaccinated, and those who aren’t are prohibited from playing games in Canada, there is no league-wide mandate. The issue is that he wasn’t vaccinated and lied about it. This is the most recent of many examples of Kane’s lack of recognizing consequences for his actions, and finally caused the hockey world to think, “huh, maybe this guy shouldn’t be playing anymore.”
The obvious assumption is that the Sharks don’t want Kane playing for them again, but he still has four years remaining on his contract. Although many thought the Sharks would terminate this contract, which pays him $7 million per year, a void or termination is not an option because the Sharks would need to prove that Kane materially breached his contract. This is quite difficult to do because, technically speaking, he is still able to fulfill his contractual obligations (playing hockey) if he were allowed. If, for example, he was criminally charged for faking his vaccine card, the Sharks could potentially have a case, but for now, there is nothing to justify it.
This whole saga with Evander Kane over the last few months raises the question: why did it take this long for him to get to the point where he can no longer redeem himself? Sure, he reached that point with Winnipeg, but other teams were still willing to trade for him. Even after what happened in Buffalo, he still had enough value to be traded. But now? There’s no way any other team would possibly want him on their roster. With termination not possible either, the Sharks are running out of options. It has been reported that several members of the Sharks don’t want him on the team, and with his latest betrayal of their trust, nobody in the league will possibly be able to look at him the same way again regardless of how many apology statements he issues.
At the end of the day, playing hockey is Evander Kane’s job. In any other job, you get fired if you don’t show up to work, are disrespectful to your coworkers, or have criminal charges filed against you. If this were any other workplace, there would be no hesitation in firing him, and it would have been done a long time ago. It shouldn’t be any different for professional athletes.
So, as November 30th approaches, the hockey world will be looking to the San Jose Sharks for their decision. The way things look now, he won’t be playing in their uniform again, or any uniform in the league at all. Evander Kane has redeemed himself from a lot of scandals, but he shouldn’t be allowed to come back from these ones.
Why was Evander Kane suspended? Explaining Sharks forward’s 21-game ban for violating COVID-19 protocol: https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nhl/news/evander-kane-suspended-21-ga mes-violating-covid-19-protocol-sharks/ksu55gygex4i1e2vfbpd89er6
A timeline of Evander Kane’s ‘episodes’ with the Jets:
Harassment case against Evander Kane to be dismissed: https://www.si.com/hockey/news/repo rt-harassment-case-against-evander-kane-to-be-dismissed
San Jose Sharks’ Evander Kane files for bankruptcy:
No evidence found that San Jose Sharks forwards Evander Kane bet on NHL games; league considers this ‘specific matter closed’: https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/32260083/no-evidence-found-san-jose-sharks-forward-evander-kane-bet-nhl-games-league-considers-specific-matter-closed
Why the San Jose Sharks Can’t Void Evander Kane’s Contract Over Fake Vaccination Card:
How deep is the Evander Kane issue: