Kane under microscope in Winnipeg
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets left winger Evander Kane fires a shot prior to playing the San Jose Sharks in NHL hockey in Winnipeg Jan. 12, 2012. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - As an Atlanta Thrasher, Evander Kane could probably escape the public eye while in a scoring slump.
Nor would the indifferent fans on Peachtree St. have raised much fuss if he tried to play through concussion symptoms. How about a smattering of gossip about misbehaviour off-ice? He’d still have to go a long way to knock Michael Vick off the front page.
But in his new home of Winnipeg, where the Jets are under constant scrutiny, the 20-year-old team leading scorer is much bigger news. So when all of the above was raised the past few days, Kane had to face one of the biggest media mobs since the team came north,
Tuesday was the re-activated Kane’s first game and first public comments since Jan. 20th, when the team announced a concussion had sidelined him. But Kane said he’d been feeling out of sorts since a Dec. 20th game against the Islanders, begging the question why he’d continued in the lineup for a month and fuelling a local rumour that the head injury was the result of a recent off-ice dust-up.
Kane and coach Claude Noel addressed the topics before the game against the Leafs, who were in the unusual position of being ignored on a Western Canadian stop.
“I got over it quickly,” Kane said of getting his “bell rung” in the Islander game. “It wasn’t affecting my play (just three goals in 12 games followed), but I just wasn’t feeling the same as I’d felt earlier in the season. It was the normal symptoms that come along with a concussion.
“The week I came to terms with maybe having a concussion were the games in Ottawa and Buffalo. I hit my head on the back of the ice (in Buffalo on Jan. 19) and didn’t feel too good. I took a bit of a spill, hit the back of my head on the ice and felt my brain rattle a bit.”
The uncertainty about the injury and Kane’s apparent attempt to hush it up, put the team and its medical staff on the spot in a season where head injuries are such a hot topic in the NHL.
“Our trainers are good, but athletes are athletes,” Noel said of Kane’s reluctance to level with the staff. “It’s something we’ve addressed.
“If you’ve ever had a concussion, you’re not sure either. Is it just a headache? You wake up fine and don’t get anything until a couple of weeks later. (The player) has to bring it up to the staff and say ‘I don’t feel right.’”
Kane, who has never had a concussion before, was asked to clarify the nature of the injury in the wake of town gossip that he was hurt in a public altercation.
“It was not an off-ice injury,” Kane said. “I have not had an off-ice injury since I was five-years-old.”
It’s been a tough few weeks for Kane, who has also heard mutterings in the local service industry that he hasn’t treated restaurant staff fairly in establishments he and the team frequent. No one has stepped forward to substantiate any of the tales.
“Tough lessons of life,” Noel said of all the speculation around Kane. “It’s not fair, but that’s the world we live in. Sometimes, it’s humbling.”