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Enough is enough with Evander Kane.
The talented, 30-year-old San Jose Sharks winger is again in hot water with the NHL and was suspended Monday for a whopping 21 games after attempting to pass off a counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination card with the league and his Sharks team.
According to the NHL, Kane was suspended for "an established violation of, and lack of compliance with, the NHL/NHLPA COVID-19 Protocol” and he’ll forfeit his game checks to the NHL Player Emergency Assistance Fund. Kane issued a packaged statement through the NHLPA to go along with the suspension announcement, a boilerplate apology that didn’t give off even a whiff of authenticity or genuine accountability.
"I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols," said Kane in the written statement. "I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey."
How about apologizing to the families of the 70, 981 California residents that have died due to COVID-19 complications while you’re at it, Evander? Or how about the 4 million plus cases that have ravaged the state of California over the last 18 months?
Trying to pass off a phony vaccination card is a slap in the face to all of them.
Instead, Kane will serve out his suspension, probably pool-side while pretending a stack of $100 bills is a cell phone and likely return to play for the Sharks on Nov. 30 against the New Jersey Devils. But that really doesn’t feel like enough punishment for a troubled player that has also been investigated for allegedly betting on NHL games and domestic abuse in the last few months as well.
It’s important to note he was cleared by the NHL on both those charges when they weren’t substantiated by due diligence investigations, and he denied the gambling charges vehemently during a sit-down interview with ESPN.
But it doesn’t exactly feel like a coincidence that these kinds of things seem to keep happening to the 30-year-old Vancouver native, however.
Kane has been suspended six times in his NHL career for things as varied as dangerous, illegal hits, physical abuse of officials and a violation of team rules in 2018 that reportedly culminated with former Winnipeg teammate Dustin Byfuglien tossing his track suit into the team showers.
Earlier in his career, Kane faced accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed by a Buffalo woman and was slapped with charges of non-criminal harassment, disorderly conduct and trespassing after allegedly grabbing three women inside the “Bottoms Up” bar in Buffalo.
It all adds up to a career full of terrible choices, reckless off-ice behavior and, frankly, embarrassing conduct that both the league and his direct NHL employer have tacitly condoned by allowing him to keep playing hockey. While the NHL should be applauded for giving teeth to their COVID-19 regulations after dropping the 21-game suspension hammer, it feels like this should go even further with Kane after blowing his umpteenth to figure it out.
At this point, the ball is in San Jose’s court to tell Kane that they no longer need him on the ice going forward, and that his steady stream of negligent behavior is unacceptable.
"The NHL has advised our organization that Evander Kane has been suspended without pay for 21 games for an established violation of, and lack of compliance with, the NHL/NHLPA COVID-19 protocols," the San Jose Sharks said in a Monday statement. "While we are encouraged by Evander's commitment to moving forward, we are extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place by the NHL and the NHLPA. We will not be commenting further on Evander's status prior to the conclusion of the NHL's mandated suspension."
Look, Kane is still talented enough to have scored 246 goals and topped 500 points in his NHL career and he’s averaged 26 goals per game in his three full seasons with San Jose. That’s why he’s continues to get second, third and fourth chances throughout his NHL career.
But the right move for the Sharks is the same move that Winnipeg and Buffalo enacted when they decided they’d seen enough of Kane’s act earlier in his NHL career. It’s the same move that the New York Rangers made with defenseman Tony DeAngelo when his conduct was deemed detrimental to the hockey club.
It would be a costly move considering he’s owed three more years at $7 million per season on his current Sharks contract, and it would be a courageous roster move given that Kane is still an effective in-his-prime top-6 winger when he’s actually on the ice.
But at a certain point, isn’t being an NHL player a privilege rather than a right? Isn’t it something that should, and could, be taken away if a player proves over and over again with selfish, unruly actions that he doesn’t deserve that honor?
We all believe in second chances for people to live, learn and better themselves, but Kane has already had a bevy of those in his 12-year NHL career. At a certain point, one becomes an enabler rather than giving the tough love that’s sometimes needed to truly transform one’s behavior and perspective.
Kane never took part in training camp and hasn’t appeared in a game this season for a Sharks team that’s probably not a Cup contender this season anyway.
The right thing for the Sharks to do would be to cut ties with Kane and send a clear message that NHL players need to live up to a certain level of conduct to earn the privilege of playing in the world’s best hockey league.
Kane has come up woefully short on his end of the bargain off the ice, and truly enough is enough at this point.