Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kane entitled to rights as a citizen

Shouldn't be attacked due to high profile

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Just to be clear, there's no love lost between Evander Kane and myself. In fact, he's made it very apparent he doesn't have much use for me and my work.

And while I think he's a helluva hockey player I also think he has a lot of growing up to do.

I've written things about Kane that he doesn't like. So be it. That's not uncommon in the world of pro athletes and the reporters that cover them.

But personal differences aside, what has happened to Kane in the last couple of days is absolutely shameful.

Some wiseguy hears a rumour and takes a sign to a hockey game slandering Kane. Someone else takes a picture of the sign and puts it on Twitter and whoosh -- the whole thing catches fire. Websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts repeated rumour after rumour about Kane on Saturday with no evidence to support the claims. Posts became so inflammatory on the Free Press website Saturday night the comments section was shut down.

Disgusting is only one way to describe it.

The offending sign first appeared at a Jets game in Ottawa last week: "Dear Evander: Please stop walking out on your bills. Sincerely, Winnipeg servers and restauranteurs."

Kane posted the picture on his Twitter account with the message, "Ha, Ha. What a complete lie this is but I really like the colours on the poster."

The Jets were refusing comment on Saturday, but in making calls to Winnipeg restaurants I was able to learn that NHL security had conducted an investigation into the matter. A Jets executive confirmed this and stated the investigation came up empty. The folks in the restaurant business that I spoke with had good things to say about Kane.

"Evander has been here a number of times and is a perfect gentleman," said Jim Armstrong, manager of 529 Wellington.

Earls Restaurants responded to a text by saying Kane has never been a problem and is a frequent and welcome visitor, along with a number of the Jets.

No real surprise there, as walking out of a restaurant without paying is against the law and if Kane had ever really done it we would expect to read about it on page A3 of the Free Press.

On the other hand, no restaurant is going to come out and say Kane stiffed them, because the Jets would stop going there.

Kane, who is currently out of the lineup with a concussion, is a lightning rod for this sort of thing. He's a big-time talent in a small town. Being a handsome young millionaire endowed with enormous God-given talents will do that to a fellow.

Not to mention he's a goal scorer and can come across as a bit cocky. If you want to be a sniper you have to believe in yourself.

Maybe Kane rubs some the wrong way. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in that camp.

Call me old school, but until you've scored more than 19 goals in a season and actually skated in the post-season there's not so much to be cocky about.

Back in October Kane's so-called business manager -- not to be confused with his very reputable agent, Craig Oster -- approached Winnipeg restaurants asking for cash in exchange for endorsement tweets from the player.

The Free Press researched the story, got confirmation and printed it.

In this most recent instance, the Free Press did the same thing and produced establishments willing to go on the record to refute the rumours. None would confirm the accusations of the as yet anonymous sign maker.

Kane is immature. So was I when I was 20, but I wasn't a pro hockey player with an entire city watching my every move on and off the ice.

Mistakes are to be expected but not invented. Accusations, such as walking out on a bill, need to be substantiated.

I'm the last guy you'll hear suggesting we give Kane a break. But he shouldn't be fair game to half truths because he's becoming the most well-known guy in the city.

Our community is responsible for how we treat the Jets. They shouldn't be handled any differently than anyone else. They shouldn't be lied about and they shouldn't have to face irresponsible attacks on their character. No one should.

Not you and not Evander Kane.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2012 B2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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