Okay, it’s agreed that Evander Kane is Public Enemy No. 1 in River City.
The guy is about as welcome as mosquitos at a picnic table. He probably couldn’t get himself a free lunch at a soup kitchen. Heck, Kane likely couldn’t score a pint on the house if he bellied up to the bar with Mike O’Shea and Drew Willy as his wing mates on a Friday night at the Palomino Club.
Ya. I’m told it’s that bad.
So here’s what I would like to know: What is Kane’s crime?
There’s a school of thought, of course, that suggests he wants out of Winnipeg. That he feels as if playing hockey in River City is the equivalent of cleaning up after the circus elephants. We’ve been hearing that since he arrived with the National Hockey League club’s caravan from Atlanta in 2011. Well, to the best of my knowledge, we’ve never heard any such words fall from Kane’s tongue. When asked about it point blank, he acts like a ninny and skates around the issue without providing a yes or no answer.
Thus, it’s all gossip. Innuendo. Rumor. Kane, himself, has yet to approach general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff and request a trade. Not for public consumption, anyway.
Why, then, is the young Winnipeg Jets left winger so disliked?
I mean, Dale Hawerchuk demanded his ticket out of Dodge, yet he is revered in River City.
The difference, of course, is that Ducky had street cred as a hockey player and, perhaps just as important, as a citizen. His street cred was borne of a 53-goal season. Six 40-plus goal seasons. Half a dozen 100-plus point seasons. A Calder Trophy. And he married a Manitoba farm girl, Crystal.
One other thing: There was no belief that Ducky considered his adopted hometown the crotch of the country.
Ducky wanted a new postal code for one reason: GM Mike Smith.
Some of you might not be old enough to remember comrade Mikhail, who generally (mis)managed the Jets in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He was, shall we say, a different head of lettuce. Rumpled in a slept-on-the-street sort of way and an egghead who viewed hockey not so much as sport but science, he had a degree in Russian studies and a fascination, if not a fetish, for players whose names ended with the letters ‘ov’. Under comrade Mikhail’s watch, the Jets had more Ivans and Igors and Sergeis and Vladimirs than the Kremlin. Or the Moscow phone book. Winnipeg was Red Square West. That’s why I called them the Central Red Jets back in the day.
Anyway, Hawerchuk was caught up in, and eventually swept away by, the undertow of comrade Mikhail’s diabolical plot to paint the town red.
As with the Kane scrutiny, gossip abounded about Ducky being dispatched hither and yon. Chicago Blackhawks coach Iron Mike Keenan and his Jets counterpart, Bob (Mud) Murdoch talked about a one-for-one swap: Denis Savard for Hawerchuk. Prior to the 1989 NHL trade deadline, there was discussion of a deal that would have sent Ducky to Philadelphia for Dave Poulin, Scott Mellanby and one of the Flyers’ No. 1 picks.
"And three of Bobby Clarke’s kids," was comrade Mikhail’s cheeky reaction to the reports. "And two of Jay Snider’s cars."
To that point in time, Hawerchuk had made no trade request or demand. He was, however, wavering.
"I would accept a trade more easily now than I would have a year ago," he said. "I’m tired about reading bull in the papers. I’m tired of coming to the rink with a negative-type attitude here. Maybe it’s best for the hockey club to get a few players for me. That’s not saying I want to be traded."
Both Hawerchuk and comrade Mikhail were singing from the same sheet in the songbook by the end of that season.
"He basically would like a change," the GM told reporters. "He’d like an opportunity to go to another team and play in another organization."
Shortly thereafter, Ducky was shuffled off to Buffalo in barter for Phil Housley, Scott Arniel, Jeff Parker and an exchange of first-round draft picks (the Jets chose Keith Tkachuk). It was a favorable deal for the Jets, certainly the best return anyone could have expected.
Despite his defection, Hawerchuk is revered and considered hockey deity in River City. And rightly so.
Kane, meanwhile, is reviled.
I still don’t know what crime Kane has committed, other than he enjoys yanking everyone’s chain. I do know this, however: Dale Hawerchuk earned the right to request a trade because he earned his street cred through his deeds. To this point in time, Evander Kane has done and earned squat.
You know, just like The Possum, whose management by paralysis has paralyzed the Jets.
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