Monday 10 August 2009

Law & Order: Buffalo

That glorious picture to the left is not the picture of Patrick Kane that will grace the Chicago Blackhawks' media guide this season. That is the official booking photo taken by the Buffalo police after they arrested Patrick Kane for his Sunday morning stupidity. Needless to say, they probably captured his best side. All jokes aside, the Chicago Blackhawks have some serious soul searching to do now. I'll take you back to another serious incident involving the Blackhawks, and we'll see some striking similarities between that infamous incident and the one that Patrick Kane committed early yesterday morning. Both involved alcohol and a late night, both involved some fisticuffs, and both involved high-profile Blackhawk players.

Let's go back to January 23, 2003. It's a cold winter night in the middle of Columbus, Ohio after a game between the visiting Blackhawks and the hometown Blue Jackets. The Blackhawks had welcomed Theoren Fleury back to the team after he sat out the first 25 games of the 2002-03 season for voluntarily admitting he had violated the NHL's substance abuse program. He claimed his battle with alcohol was "in remission", stating he had turned a new page.

On January 23, however, his face was used as a punching bag by several bouncers before he was thrown out of the Pure Platinum strip club along with teammates Phil Housley and Tyler Arnason.

Sergeant Brett Mull, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department, stated that officers had been called by an employee at the gas station across the street from the strip club after the three men had used the phone to call a cab at about 4:45am. The employee had thought that the one man, Fleury, had been assaulted.

By the time the police had arrived, the three players and the cab was gone. However, Officer Jason Gunther spotted the cab while on patrol and stopped it. The man that the gas station employee had described as having been assaulted was inside. According to the report filed by Gunther, Fleury was "intoxicated" and told Gunther that he had been "hit several times by about nine bouncers" at the strip club.

No charges were filed, and Fleury was allowed to go on his way since he wasn't driving. The Blackhawks, to their credit, handled the incident internally, but after starting the season 25-15-8-3, the Blackhawks plummeted in the standings in their last 35 games, going 9-18-5-3 to miss the playoffs with a 30-33-13-6 record. Fleury's game never got on track, and he ended with 12 goals and 21 assists in 54 games.

The black eye that Fleury delivered to the organization was felt across the league. He never played in the league again because of his problem with alcohol and drugs, and no team ever tendered him an offer after his incident in Columbus. And, to be honest, why would they? Who needs that kind of bad publicity?

Fast forward to August 9, 2009. Another black eye for the Blackhawks organization involving alcohol, an intoxicated player, some poor choices, and the police. It will be interesting to see how this episode is handled by the team with one of its budding superstars and one of the league's dynamic young players. After all, according to Craig Custance of The Sporting News, new head honcho John McDonough wants to see things done the "Blackhawks Way".

"I'm not really patient and have a tendency to call people on things because, to me, once is a trend," McDonough said to Custance at the time.

If you don't believe that some changes were in order under McDonough's regime, I direct you to fired head coach Denis Savard and re-assigned GM Dale Tallon. Both men were replaced quickly after some perceived mistakes. And now, with what could be called "a major embarrassment" on his hands with one of his star players, what does McDonough do?

Clearly, there are pros and cons to McDonough's situation. On the pro side, he has a young kid who can speak out against this sort of thing and be an example of why moderation and cool heads are far better than intoxication and rage. On the con side, he could potentially have a felon on his team that will prevent his movement across the border. And you have to think that replacing Kane in the lineup against Canadian teams will be a lot harder than simply filling a hole.

The fallout of this move by Patrick Kane will be felt for a while. It affects not only himself, but his teammates, the organization, the fans, and the league. It's one that, if found innocent, will essentially be a life-long lesson if handled properly. However, if he is found guilty on the charges against him, he could essentially handcuff his team. How, you ask? Here's how.

According to Canadian law, "Section 19(2)(a.1) of the Immigration Act of Canada states that persons convicted of an offence outside of Canada, that would be an offence under Canadian law, cannot be admitted to Canada. Criminally inadmissable persons can, however, apply for a special permission to enter Canada. This special permission is expressed by a Minister's Permit". Basically, Kane would be prohibited from entering Canada without special permission. The permit required can take up to six months to receive, and the applicant may have to go through an interview process before the applicant is allowed entry into Canada. Basically, Kane will have to have the Blackhawks jump through a lot of hoops for him to play in Canada this season if he is found guilty of the offences with which he is charged.

If the Blackhawks meet up with Vancouver, Calgary, or Edmonton in the playoffs in 2010, Patrick Kane potentially will have to watch from home. How much do you think that will hurt the Blackhawks? Is it fair to the rest of his teammates? Will the organization tolerate that kind of unexcused absence because of a moment of stupidity?

We'll find out on August 17.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Kirsten said...

He looks unbelievably douchey in that picture, even for him.
He's basically a spoiled brat who got even more spoiled and bratty with fame and wealth. I read an interview with his host parents in Michigan saying he wouldn't help with the house chores unless they told him he had to. A lot of fans say he's rude, and my friend Tenisha took her cousin to see him at a signing, and he was hungover. I've never been a big fan of the kid, but now people have stopped questioning why that is.

sweets said...

such a silly mistake.

JTH said...

Striking similarities?

I dunno, Teebz. That seems like a bit of a stretch (although I'll admit that when I heard this news, my mind immediately jumped to Theo Fleury).

But other than the fact that it happened late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective) and there was a cab involved, I don't really see a lot of parallels here.

Teebz said...

Alcohol, fisticuffs, late-night partying, and a high-profile Blackhawks player leading to embarrassment for the organization.

That's how they are related, JTH. :o)

JTH said...

Teebz, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the incidents are completely without parallels. It's a matter of perspective, I suppose. The two incidents are certainly similar on the surface, but vastly different at their cores.

The track records of the two players involved prior to their respective incidents are quite dissimilar. Also, as you pointed out, Fleury was not charged in the incident. Kane's facing felony charges.

Plus, in Fleury's case, he was the recipient of the beatdown. Kane mugged a cabbie. (I guess I have to say "allegedly" here.)

Also, Fleury was with teammates and it happened during the season after a road game. Kane was hanging out in his hometown with his cousin during the off-season.

To me, it's kind of like saying that the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King are strikingly similar.

Teebz said...

The result was the same, though. The devil is in the details, but the end was justified by the means.

I'm not saying that Kane has an alcohol problem like Fleury did, and I'm not saying that Kane's ending is entirely the same as Fleury's. But in the end, the Blackhawks suffer because of a teammate's stupidity.

JimA said...

I hope you don't mind if some of us don't jump to conclusions and hang the kid just yet. I have heard that it was the cousin who did most, if not all, of the punching. That may or may not be true, but I will wait to see what comes from the grand jury.

There is a huge difference between the Fleury and Kane situations. Kane's was off season, he did not just come off suspension for his misuse of alcohol. Kane didn't take a rookie with him and get him drunk and beaten the night before a game. Pat may not have been the aggressor, as Fleury was.

Teebz said...

I hear you, Jim. However, when the cabbie was asked "don't you know who I am" by Patrick Kane, that seems a little aggressive. Even if it was his cousin who did all the battery on the cab driver, Patrick Kane should know that (1) it's wrong and (2) he's now involved.

Even if he wasn't the aggressor, his "do you know who I am" question is aggressive in its nature. Since Fleury was roughed up by the bouncers, he may have been the aggressor, but in both cases alcohol lead to stupidity.