Yesterday, we participated in Puck Daddy’s summer series, having been commissioned to submit the Top 5 Weirdest Moments in franchise history for the Hawks. We as a group felt a responsibility to include the events of last summer in the list, as to ignore it would be fully remiss on our part. The version that ran was heavily edited from what we originally submitted, as Yahoo presumably wanted to avoid any blowback, and felt it was not tonally appropriate for what was supposed to be a “fun” and “lighthearted” piece. But this organization has made it very difficult to be either of those things for the last year, and it would have been dishonest to not reflect that. After the jump is what we had originally intended to run.
To call this story “weird” is a flagrant misnomer and disrespectful to survivors of sexual assault, but not mentioning it in this space and continuing to point out the flaws and misdeeds in its handling would be even more remiss.
On the heels of their third Cup victory in three years, and six weeks after Kane himself proclaimed at the victory rally for everyone to “watch out” during the celebration after his newly minted and , carefully crafted, and reformed image after numerous incidents in years past, the beginning of August 2015 found police at Kane’s home investigating claims of sexual assault. From there things only began to spiral further and further out of control in an SVU case even Stabler and Benson could not have held the reins on.
From the third hand reports coming out of Buffalo, to the back and forth between reporters and scummy hangers-on, through the dueling, onto uncomfortable and convoluted chain-of-custody press conferences held by lawyers on all three sides (the District Attorney, Kane’s lawyer, the victim’s lawyer), the unrelentingly repugnant situation culminated in perhaps the most tone deaf press conference in this franchise’s storied history of them.
Hawks President, and until that point bulletproof, evil marketing genius John McDonough took to the dais at Notre Dame university, a monolith of catholicism and athletic entitlement and a deeply ironic, bordering on pitch-black satirical commentary of sexual assault in its setting. McDonough broke the lone rule of public relations in in the face of crises, and that’s to list all of the positives the organization has achieved in trying to sidestep every meaningful question as owner Rocky Wirtz and coach Joel Quenneville sate expressionless next to him. These non answers forced the assembled media (a substantially larger contingent than the Hawks usual adoring press corps) to ask the players their thoughts on the matter. And no one can speak on the adjudication process of sexual assault quite like millionaire entitled athletes with eighth grade educations. McDonough even went on to actually proclaim “I’m not tone deaf,” during this fiasco. Two days later the Hawks announced a Patrick Kane Bobblehead Night. We won’t even delve into the Garret Ross embarrassment, but it was certainly further proof that McDonough has no idea what “tone-deaf” means.
The Hawks’ brass stood by their $10.5 million dollar AAV cover boy and investment, allowing him to denounce the charges while trying to wax poetic unironically about this era being that of the “Camelot Blackhawks”, as if either cultural parallel that could be drawn to that comparison could be construed as positive. Both the Arthurian legend and the Kennedy family basically all ended up dead and embroiled in sexual controversy in one form or another. And the latter comparison affords itself to only one player possibly being cast as Teddy.
All of this transpired while Blackhawks fans everywhere made it a point to show their ass at every point possible on social media, comment sections, and sports radio call-in segments; shouting down anyone who could possibly believe that such a fresh-faced superstar could possibly be capable of such a deed. The anger and venom reached the point of radio host Julie DiCaro not being able to show up to work due to threats, our comment section to be permanently shuttered due to threats and vitriol, and for some insidious, disgusting proprietors of websites made quite a name for themselves. Because nothing drives traffic and SEO like harassing and exposing the identities of sexual assault victims. Chicago’s mentality became that of State College, Pennsylvania for a summer and that’s not a good thing.
The whole of the incident in the wake of dropped charges left an indelible scar on this franchise, and hockey fans in general. The line in the sand among Blackhawks fans still remains about whom or what to believe, but it is saddeningly apparent that those with a conscience when sports and real life intersect are drastically outnumbered. Every achievement on the ice brought out a new round of those doing touchdown dances as if a goal or assist could possibly validate what is an incredibly broken legal and judicial system for victims of sexual assault. It cast the Blackhawks and their fans as villains league wide, and justifiably so, with fans of other teams already sick of the Hawks’ success finding concrete reasons to funnel their hate into, somehow without irony even when their teams employ the likes of Drew Doughty and Mike Ribeiro.
And of course, Kane himself comes out smelling like a rose, with his seemingly pathological persecution complex fueling an MVP season that was always the potential with him. Other than being ripped from the cover of a video game, he has suffered no consequence, and if his comments after the NHL Awards ceremony are any indication, he has learned the exact wrong lessons from this entire situation.
“He’s [Lebron James] a player, too, that has had a lot of critics and a lot of people that maybe you could call haters or whatever, and he’s silenced them. Can’t really talk about him anymore. It gives you motivation, for sure”
But if Kane is incapable of learning the correct lesson from this, not everyone needs to be. The only positive that it can be hoped is drawn from this horrific and still to a certain degree ongoing situation is that even slightly more attention is paid to the degree of harassment and assault that women are subject to on a daily basis, let alone if they have the audacity to cover sports (and a sport with such a homogenous fanbase of male white affluence as hockey). There has been a human cost to this episode, one which pales in comparison to any sports allegiances or tarnished memories of championships, and that should never, ever be forgotten.