Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Career interrupted

Young, strong, passionate, coming off a great season... and now there's nothing for Evander Kane to do but wait

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Evander Kane is trying to think big picture these days. And that's mostly because the little picture -- the one that currently features a nasty cloud hovering over the National Hockey League -- absolutely, positively sucks.

So Kane's big picture revolves around this: He's just 21 and coming off a season in which he potted 30 goals and 57 points, both career highs.

Those numbers, and the enormous upside the Winnipeg Jets' organization sees in the speedy winger, earned him a new six-year deal on the eve of the lockout that will pay him an average of $5.25 million through to the end of the 2017-18 season.

So, unlike so many of his NHL compadres who are currently without a deal or on one-year contracts, he has both financial security and a huge commitment from his employer.

Yet, there's also this: He's just 21, is coming off a season in which he posted career highs and has a fat new contract in his back pocket.

And his last NHL game was on April 7, almost eight months ago.

"It's tough," began Kane in a telephone interview with the Free Press from Vancouver. "I was looking forward to coming back and following up a pretty good year and try to better that season. I was looking forward to maybe playing in the playoffs. So, I've crossed my fingers and I hope it can still happen with a shortened season.

"It sucks to come off that year and then having to wait a lot longer than normal."

Kane, as the Jets' assistant player rep for the NHLPA, has been keeping up with all the lockout news through teammate Ron Hainsey and the info passed along by the union.

And -- just like so many others involved in the game -- he hit his boiling point a long time ago.

"It's just old news now," he said. "It seems like every time there's a meeting or everybody gets excited you come to expect the same end. It's frustrating and it's unfortunate. It's not good for anybody.

"I'm a pretty simple guy in terms of making decisions. I know what I want and from a negotiation standpoint, for both the players and the owners, they know what they want. It should be simple to have a little give and take, but when one side is giving the other side keeps taking, it's tough to come to an agreement.

"To me, respect is one of the biggest things. If one side is trying to knock you down and bully you, the other side is not going to respond too well. We're not going to fold up our tents and stick our tails between our legs. We're going to fight back. Our willingness and battle level to stick to what we believe in is pretty high."

Kane was asked if there was any kind of disconnect with his family because of the lockout -- the same way so many fans have grown angry watching billionaires argue with millionaires over what was a $3.3-billion pot.

Remember, his father Perry grew up on the streets of East Preston, N.S. -- he was one of five kids, Kane's grandfather one of 18 -- and scratched and clawed his way to a university hockey career before moving to Vancouver.

But Kane said his father has been one of his biggest influences both for hockey and the business of the game. And so any fight the son takes on, the family is right there with him.

"My family totally understands," Kane said. "We grew up with not a lot, but now that I've been in the NHL for three years we're pretty comfortable. I obviously wanted to give back as much as I could to my family and do as much as I could for them. I've been able to do that and will continue to do that.

"My dad grew up a hockey player. He's the one that taught me the business at a young age, before I was even drafted. He knows how things work."

Kane said when he isn't diving into the lockout mess, he continues to skate and work out in Vancouver while finding some other avenues to amuse himself. An example: He's heading to Washington, D.C. for Monday night's Redskins-New York Giants tilt to watch his new favourite player, Skins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

"I have all this free time right now," said Kane with a laugh. "Hopefully, for the next 20 years I'll never have all this free time again."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 C1

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