Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane has been a target of criticism from some Winnipeg fans, but not all of it relates to his on-ice performance.

When the Atlanta Thrashers  moved last summer to Winnipeg and were reborn as the Jets, one of the advantages cited for the players was they would enjoy playing in a city which truly cared about hockey.

Kane has become a target for scurrilous gossip in Winnipeg.

One disadvantage that wasn’t mentioned, however, was the players would find their lives under considerably more scrutiny in Winnipeg than they faced in Atlanta.

Such is what Jets promising young left wing Evander Kane has discovered this season.

The details can be found courtesy of Scott Taylor of Jetnation.ca, Gary Lawless of The Winnipeg Free Press and Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun, who reported:

-Kane’s business manager last fall approached local restaurants and bars suggesting that, for a fee, the young forward would announce via Twitter he and his Jets teammates were at that establishment in order to draw fans, even if they weren’t really there.

-A rumor emerged last fall claiming Kane had skipped out on paying a restaurant bill, or had skipped on several restaurant bills, depending on the source of the rumor. That prompted a fan to recently attend a Jets game with a sign imploring him to stop walking out on his restaurant bills.

-Earlier this season, there were rumors Kane was unhappy playing in Winnipeg and had requested a trade, which he and Jets management denied.

-When Kane was sidelined by a concussion, a rumor made the rounds claiming it was the result of a fight in a Winnipeg bar, than from game action.

-An “I Hate Evander Kane” page has sprung up on Facebook, while Kane has taken down his own Facebook page, as well as ceased commenting on his Twitter account, in the wake of the personal attacks and unsubstantiated gossip.

The three agree agree Kane’s immaturity and cocky attitude has made him a lightning rod for criticism, rubbing some Winnipeg fans the wrong way.

Taylor, however, called Kane a “big city, 21st Century athlete in a small town that has never warmed to athletes who a) need to be paid for just about everything they do and b) carry themselves as bigger, richer and more important than other members of the community”.

Being a young, rich, cocky, talented athlete playing in hockey’s smallest market appears to makes Kane stand out more than it would in the bigger markets, or the more obscure.

Taylor doesn’t condone the actions of the gossipmongers, but went on to suggest Kane’s immaturity was bringing the abuse upon himself.

‘But for a kid who wanted a trade early in the season, has responded with improved play to two benchings and has been the most explosive offensive force on a team that can’t score, this just might be another wake-up call.

Because when you’ve pissed off a fan base that wants to love you as much as their own family members, you’re probably doing something wrong.’

Lawless and Friesen, however, believe Kane, despite his immaturity, doesn’t deserve to be the subject of malicious, baseless gossip, suggesting this reflects poorly upon Winnipeg hockey fans, which could result in the city getting a reputation as less than “player-friendly”.

It’s certainly understandable how some fans would be rubbed the wrong way by the story about Kane’s business manager seeking cash for his endorsement, but that certainly isn’t justification for the hatred toward him. At worse, it can be suggested he got bad business advice.

The rumors about Kane skipping out on restaurant tabs and getting his concussion from a barroom fight were reported by Lawless and Friesen to be false, but that hasn’t quelled the  growing dislike for Kane. Its even been suggested the fact the Jets investigated the stories about Kane as some bizarro-world justification the rumors were fact.

It’s one thing to be critical of Kane’s performance, or even to suggest he has no right to be acting cocky if he’s not playing well. He’s a pro athlete, and that sort of criticism comes with the territory. It’s another to spread malicious, unsubstantiated gossip.

Given today’s technology, where cellphones record indiscretions which quickly become featured on social media (or in the case of the Vancouver riot, headline news), one would think there would be some record of Kane skipping out on restaurant tabs (a criminal offense) or getting his bell rung in a bar fight. No such evidence exists.

It’s seems when folks want to believe the worst in someone, it doesn’t matter if there’s lack of evidence to support the gossip. Word of mouth, based on hearing from someone who knows someone, seems to suffice.

Winnipeg has a justified reputation as a friendly, die-hard hockey town. Most Jets fans don’t appear to be buying into these baseless smears about Kane, even if his attitude or play draws criticism from some.

It would be a shame, however, to see this become an example of the ugly flip side of being a hockey player in Winnipeg, where your life becomes a fishbowl existence, and every foible – real and imagined – is blown out of proportion.

Winnipeg’s location and size could make it a difficult sell for the Jets to entice top free agent talent. Management will obviously point to the fan support and small town feel as selling features, especially the latter to players with young families.

The last thing the Jets need is for the city to garner a bad reputation over how the fans treat their players, especially when it comes to their personal lives. Remember, players also talk among themselves throughout the league, and there are probably some cities they view less favorably than others.

Hopefully, this situation with Kane will be a “one-off”, something which disappears as he matures, and as Winnipeg fans become more accustomed to having cocky young hockey stars in their midst again.

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12 Responses to Evander Kane Drawing Criticism in Winnipeg.

  1. cat says:

    I have a hard time with folks in Winnipeg describing Kane as cocky. Kaner is far from cocky! He may need to fire his agent if indeed a call as was describe was made, but that is the nicest kid I have ever met! Sounds to me like someone THINKS he slighted them and is now trying to ruin his reputation. But then again maybe cocky in Winnipeg must mean something totally different than it does to us stupid hockey no nothings in Georgia.

  2. BruinsMike says:

    These Jets fans need to get a life and realize this isn’t 1996 any more, players aren’t the same as they used to be.

  3. Old_Soldier says:

    I am one of those Winnipegers who has disapproved of Kane and his behaviour, while I definately admire his skill, and for those who only know what they read in a column or two, yes it might seem unfair. Something not mentioned by Lyle was the fact the “NHL” itself investigated the issues, though they haven’t said anything publicly its probable that they were unable to prove the rumors false.

    The one thing that really surprises me, for all that is going on, why has the organization been so quiet, neither denying the allegations or issuing a public statement of support for Kane. Going back decades, teams in the NHL and league itself has never hesitated to shut down gossip or rumors of any sort (as witnessed with Buff’s weight issue and arrest and rumors of players not wanting to play in Winnipeg), yet in this case the silence is deafening.

    As for the comments of “accept it or no-one will want to come to Winnipeg”, are you serious? Where do you draw the line? Okay Buff is okay with DWB and refusing testing, maybe next week a player hit and runs someone, is that okay? Lets turn it around, if the accusations were true, would you still say “leave it alone” hoping that would attract other players? This is the old story of athletes/celebrities loving the limelight while hating its repercussions.

    The media feeds off of controversy and to comment otherwise is a bit hollow. In fact, a lot of people would never have known the situation if Lawless hadn’t printed his column in “support” of Kane. Talk about self-serving.

  4. Dutch says:

    I am a Winnipegger and not a Jet fan but I think these Jets fans should back off their star player. They finally got their team back and now they are trying ot chase the best player out of town. Rumours dont have to be proved false, they have to be proved to be be true and they haven’t been.

    Kane is a 20 year old kid who has a ton of talent. Let this guy mature and become a leader for the Jets for years to come and get off his back. As I mentioned, he’s still a kid. In the worst case scenario, if these rumours are true, he made a couple bad decisions and he’ll learn. These stars have the microscope on them for every move they make. One person’s perception of a situation starts a rumour and it gets to this. Everyone critisizing him has made similar stupid decisions that he’s being accused of and they probably regret them now. 8 years from now he could be captain of the Jets or he could be scoring 40 goals a year wearing a different sweater.

    Personally, I would love him to get traded to the Canucks. He’d be a top line power forward for many years to come. Yes,he will make mistakes like everyother 20 year old out there but he will grow out of them and be a leader. If he finally says enough is enough and asks for a trade then it will be something that will haunt the Jets’ fans for the next 2 decades.

    Grow up Winnipeg!!!!

  5. Icebear says:

    Kane is cocky. But that’s mostly ok. Just don’t let your swagger get to big, and do your kob

  6. Phil Housley says:

    Fact is winning is everything. Look at Seguin and Marchand in Boston. They are a couple of cocky, spoiled kids who went on a two month binge after winning the cup. Nobody cared. If Kane wins, he can do as he pleases.

  7. Steve says:

    Seems to me, the hicks in Winnipeg might be a little bit racist.

  8. Dillon says:

    Wow RACIST really?!? and the hicks are one province over (Saskatchewan)

  9. Follow up on Kane’s concussion. It appears he suffered it back in December in a game against the NY Islanders, and reaggravated it a month later in a game against the Sabres. That’s right, he played ten games without realizing he was concussed. So much for he got concussed in a bar fight in Winnipeg.

  10. Beleafer89 says:

    On behalf of the Toronto Maple Leafs, if Evander Kane comes available… DIBS!!!!!!

  11. BT says:

    “Wow RACIST really?!? and the hicks are one province over (Saskatchewan)”

    Funny how you defend your city, which is good, then make an unprovoked cut-down of another place. Pure class. By the way, wages are far higher in Sask than Manitoba, and inter-provincially, people are actually choosing to go there (unlike MB, which only gains people because they hand out work permits like coupons)

  12. Go Jets says:

    Can we trade Saskatchewan?

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