Tkachuk feels Kane's pain

Former Jets forward Keith Tkachuk, seen during a

Former Jets forward Keith Tkachuk, seen during a "Ring of Honour" ceremony before a December 2011, NHL game between the Blues and Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., said he understands current Jet Evander Kane's situation. (CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/Getty Images/AFP)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

WINNIPEG - He was young, rich and carried himself with the self-assurance of a star-in-the-making.

And occasionally, he forgot he was living in the fishbowl that is Winnipeg.

If anybody can identify with Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane, it’s former Jets star Keith Tkachuk.

“I kind of feel for what he’s going through,” Tkachuk was saying from his home in St. Louis, Wednesday. “It’s definitely overwhelming.”

Tkachuk has been reading about the attention Kane has attracted since moving here with the Atlanta Thrashers. And if he sees some similarities to his own days as a Jet, well, it’s because there are a few.

A thick, power forward with a heavy shot and soft hands, Tkachuk joined the Jets from Boston University just before he turned 20, in 1992.

It didn’t take long before the goals and the money were piling up — along with the rumours.

“Being in the spotlight, I definitely wasn’t ready for that,” Tkachuk said. “And sometimes I took advantage of it. But you forget that all eyes are on you.”

Simply put, Tkachuk had a reputation as a guy who didn’t shy away from a party.

“Sure I liked to have a good time,” he said, chuckling. “I just didn’t know any better at the time, and certainly made some bad decisions that you look back now ... that’s part of the growing up process.

“I had my share of fun. But I’ve learned that if you make some poor decisions, it’s going to catch up to you. If you want to play hockey, you’ve got to do the right things and take care of yourself.”

Tkachuk took good enough care of himself to play 17 seasons, score 538 regular-season goals and make tens of millions of dollars.

At this point, Kane can only dream of a career like that.

At 20, and already earning $3 million per season, Kane was on pace for a 30-goal campaign before a 10-game slump, then a concussion, slowed him down.

He’s also on pace to be buried under a mountain of rumours. How the concussion happened in a bar fight, how he’s walked out on restaurant bills — the list goes on.

“I don’t believe any of that,” Tkachuk said. “If you’re Evander, or whoever it is, and you get that negative stuff, you don’t blame him to be unhappy. That’s just unfair for people to do that. It’s a lot of jealousy from people.

“I’m a big Evander Kane fan. Leave the kid alone, let him play. Let him enjoy the city. It’s just a few people who like to tear down other people.”

And it could affect whether or not Kane wants to stay in Winnipeg, Tkachuk warned.

“The people who work in these restaurants and the fans should be very careful,” he said. “Look at what the Jets have done for the economy. I’d be very careful of doing that to players.”

That’s not to say Kane and his teammates don’t have to be careful, too.

After all, today’s mistake can turn into tomorrow’s headline. You only have to look at Dustin Byfuglien’s impaired boating charge to see what a little fun can become.

Tkachuk may have avoided that kind of headline. But who knows how many he may have generated if they’d had camera phones and Twitter in the early-1990s.

“I’m glad there wasn’t,” he said. “It’s a different world, now. You have to adjust to it.”

Soon to be 40, and with three kids of his own, including a couple of hockey-playing boys, 14 and 12, Tkachuk acknowledges today’s Jets probably aren’t as footloose and fancy-free as they were in his day.

But he has some advice for them, just the same.

“You just rely on your teammates and the organization, friends, and make sure you take care of business on the ice,” he said. “And just be careful what you do. Be very, very careful. Put yourself in good positions, responsible positions, and don’t add fuel to the fire.”


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