In Buffalo area, Patrick Kane supporters left shaking heads over latest incident

Philip Hersh
Chicago Tribune
Patrick Kane 'is our Stanley Cup champion,' Buffalo TV reporter says.

Tom Farkas planned to mark the presence of the Stanley Cup in the Buffalo, N.Y., area by putting a big mural of Patrick Kane in the window of his hockey equipment store, Great Skate, in suburban Amherst on Friday morning.

But when reports of a law enforcement investigation into an incident at Kane's house in Hamburg became public Thursday, Farkas began to have reservations about the timing of displaying the mural created by Bauer Hockey, one of Kane's sponsors.

"Patrick Kane is an important part of my business," Farkas said. "He's an icon. I'd rather have him on the window than somebody else."

Bauer spokesman Steve Jones said the company had not asked retailers either to remove or keep up any imagery of Kane while it monitors the situation. Farkas chose not to display it for now.

"I decided to hold off until the air clears," Farkas said.

That might take a long time. And no matter the outcome of the investigation, the greatest hockey player to come from Buffalo might find his reputation forever sullied, even in his hometown.

"I don't want to believe anything I hear, but it's disheartening," Farkas said.

Especially given the timing.

Saturday was Kane's day to celebrate with the Cup, an annual summer ritual for players and management whose team has won hockey's biggest prize that year.

Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman had the Cup at his Buffalo-area home Friday. Farkas said player development director Barry Smith, another Buffalonian, was to get time with it. Kane's day, however, became sub rosa, with none of the planned public appearances.

When he had the Cup at home the last time, in 2013, Kane shared the day with the West Seneca Youth Hockey Association, the program in suburban Buffalo with which he had played five years beginning at age 7. West Seneca supervisor Sheila Meegan read a proclamation issued in honor of Kane.

During the Cup trip before that, in 2010, Kane included patients at a local cancer institute as well as local police officers, firefighters and ironworkers.

During those festivities, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame's Stanley Cup Journal: "I think it really inspires everybody in the city, especially the youth, to believe that if a guy from their community can achieve the kind of success that Patrick Kane has achieved, that if they work hard, they can achieve that kind of greatness as well."

According to hockey-reference.com, there have been 18 NHL players born in Buffalo. Only one other, Todd Marchant, has won a Stanley Cup, playing in 11 of the Ducks' 21 playoff games in 2007. Seventeen of the 18 never were All-Stars or winners of individual season or postseason honors.

In nine seasons, Kane has been named rookie of the year and most valuable player in the 2013 playoffs, made four All-Star teams and signed an eight-year, $84 million contract extension that kicks in this season.

He was a huge factor in all three Hawks Stanley Cup runs, playing all 68 games and scoring 30 goals and 70 points. He is seemingly on a path toward the Hall of Fame.

"Patrick has gotten huge crowds when he brought back the Cup in part because the Sabres never have won it," said Pat Gallivan, a reporter for NBC affiliate WGRZ-TV. "He is our Stanley Cup champion."

But Kane's time with the trophy this weekend was out of public view.

Kane had been regularly visible locally, playing an enhanced version of pickup hockey in the Fattey Hockey League, a summer competition that mixes pro, college and major junior players. He is listed on the roster as "Pat Kane."

But after what the Hamburg police chief Friday called an "alleged incident" that occurred last weekend, Kane did not appear with his Mordor team in its scheduled games Monday and Wednesday.

A teammate, Kyle Kozlowski, confirmed Kane had last played for Mordor the previous week. Kozlowski declined to comment on the situation involving Kane.

"The whole hockey community here is devastated by this, but everyone is taking a wait-and-see approach," said Mike Answeeney, executive board president of the Buffalo Regals youth hockey association, for which Answeeney said Kane played three seasons at the peewee level.

"Patrick is what young hockey players here are striving to be," Answeeney said.

Mike Schopp, a host on Buffalo sports-talk radio station WGR, said Kane was largely responsible for the explosive recent growth of youth hockey in the area.

"Here's a son of South Buffalo, drafted No. 1 overall, winning the Stanley Cup," Schopp said. "He is super popular."

Because no charges have been filed and local police did not confirm the investigation on the record until Friday, Schopp chose circumspection and decided not to take calls from fans about Kane on his four-hour show Thursday and Friday.

"With the amount of information out there, this has probably done some damage to his reputation already," Schopp said. "If he is charged and there is a trial that lasts a long time, the more damage is done to him.

"If he is not charged, everyone will proceed carefully, and fans will want to give him some benefit of the doubt."

For better or worse, Kane's past behavior will undoubtedly factor into that equation, no matter the outcome of the investigation and any potential ensuing legal proceedings.

He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a non-criminal offense, with all other charges dropped after an August 2009 altercation with a Buffalo cabdriver.

He apologized for photographs showing him shirtless, with a beer bottle in his hand, in the back of a limousine during the 2009-10 season in Vancouver, accompanied by clothed women and shirtless teammates Kris Versteeg and John Madden.

He apologized for his widely photographed carousing at a University of Wisconsin party after the Hawks' first-round elimination from the 2012 playoffs.

"He already had a certain reputation as a hard partier," Schopp said. "He's only 26 years old, and look at how many of those things there have been."

Answeeney said he had never talked with players in his youth hockey organization about how they perceived Kane's earlier transgressions. He has noticed adults are reacting differently to this one.

"A lot of people who were his supporters in the past are shaking their heads," Answeeney said.

At Stroh's Tavern in Angola, an unglamorous bar 100 yards from Lake Erie beaches, the lunch crowd Thursday was talking and eating and drinking and paying no attention to the TV until Kane's face appeared.

Everyone fell silent when an ESPN anchor began speaking about the allegations against Kane. The bartender grabbed the remote to turn up the volume. One older patron threw back his beer and inched closer.

"Wow," a man at the bar said to no one in particular. "What do you say about that?"

No one said anything.

Chicago Tribune's Jared Hopkins reported from Buffalo.

phersh@tribpub.com

Twitter @olyphil

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
28°