The gift that just keeps on giving roared awake again late this morning/early this afternoon, as reports broke that the grand jury that was supposed to hear the Patrick Kane investigation/case has been postponed, with reports suggesting it was due to settlement talks between the camps.
At this point, we all know the various reasons both sides could have for seeking a settlement, and to have a debate on it would lead to a lot of yelling and anger on both sides. So I’m not going to do that today. And we don’t know that a settlement is going to happen, though most with a better feel for these sort of things are leaning that way.
But if it were to, there is a practical and then theoretical fallout for the Hawks organization, and Hawks fans.
The practical is what the Hawks will do if a settlement is reached. In some if not most ways, it is the murkiest outcome. A settlement would come with no admission of guilt, no matter what you think it says other than on the paper itself. A suspension might not fly with the union, though how eager the union would be to take up arms for someone accused of rape is anyone’s guess. Ben Roethlisberger was suspended without ever being charged, and the NFLPA didn’t do anything to stop it. I don’t know if that’s a playbook here or not.
But the hard decisions aren’t here yet for the Hawks. It’s easy to let it slip that you’ve fielded calls about a trade from other teams, to prepare the ground for that or to make it seem like everything is on the table and that your principles won’t be compromised. Pulling the trigger on that is a different story entirely. It’s easy to let it slip that you are livid with him and he’s let the entire organization down. None of these are actual actions.
At the end of the day, it’s still a business and it’s a business that is based on on-ice success. Kane is clearly a huge part of that. And deep down, whatever John McDonough and Rocky Wirtz think right now, they know that in time, fans get back to just wanting goals and wins. How long that timeline is I can’t tell you, but we all know that’s how this works. On a strict hockey level, trading Kane for even 80 cents on the dollar, and that would probably be the best the Hawks can do if they go this route, does not help the Hawks win.
Which is why I think they’ll try and ride out that timeline. There will be talk of a suspension or rehab, and likely one of those. The thing is, Kane can make this awfully hard on the Hawks if he wants to. He has a no-move clause. He has a players’ union. He doesn’t have to accept a trade or suspension lying down if he doesn’t want to. I’m sure it will be quickly illustrated to him that if he wants any chance of rehabilitating his image (whether he cares about such a thing is not a question I can answer) he’ll take whatever punishment from the league or team without a word. I’m sure if the Hawks are inclined to trade him they will tell him he can try and fight it, and they’ll gear up for a suspension fight that even though they might not win they certainly won’t be the ones who come out looking like an even bigger shithead than he already is. If I had to guess, there’ll be something of at least a 25- or 40-game suspension, buying the Hawks and possibly league enough time to get a finger in the wind to see what they want to do from there. At the very least, he won’t be in South Bend next week.
Maybe the Hawks have had it. There’s certainly no reason to trust Kane, because exactly one month after his $84 million extension kicked in they got this. If he can simply buy his way out of trouble with a certain period of time sitting to boot, it’s not the biggest motivation to carefully watch his actions from here on out. He only need to look no further than the aforementioned Roethlisberger or Kobe Bryant to see how time heals all wounds in sports.
On a theoretical level for fans… well, that’s even harder. Personally, I don’t want it. I don’t want Kane to ever play a game in the United Center again. And that includes any possible trade and coming in with a different uniform on. I don’t want it. I don’t want to have to question who I am or what I am every time the Hawks take the ice. I don’t want to watch a large section of fans give him a standing ovation on his first step onto the ice on Madison, whatever he’s wearing, and have to wonder if I’m the same as them. I don’t want watching hockey to turn into some moral referendum in my own head. It was easy to scoff at others, Steelers fans or Lakers fans or Kings fans. And now it’s here with us. I don’t want it. Also, maybe even more so, I don’t want it because I know with time it gets easier and easier to compartmentalize and acquiesce. It gets easier to stop asking yourself those questions. It gets easier to cheer the goals and assists and let all of this fade into the background.
I don’t want it.