Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is currently the subject of a police investigation regarding an “incident” in his offseason hometown of Hamburg, NY. Several reports claim a young woman Kane recently met is accusing him of rape/sexual assault.
The outcome of the investigation remains to be seen. Many fans and pundits are withholding judgment until all the facts are in. Others, however, believe Kane is guilty, or that the young woman is a lying gold digger hoping to cash in with a civil suit against him.
This incident is the latest involving NHL players behaving badly. In July, Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly was charged with impaired driving, while Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro settled a sexual assault civil suit filed by his former nanny.Also in July, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Voynov’s teammate Mike Richards had his contract terminated in June following an incident at the Canada-US border involving prescription drugs. An investigation is ongoing but no charges have been laid. Earlier that month, former Kings center Jarrett Stoll pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor drug possession charges stemming from his April arrest in Las Vegas.
They aren’t the only NHL players who’ve had run-ins with the law over the years. Among the other notables:
In June 2014, Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux was arrested and spent the night in an Ottawa jail after grabbing the buttocks of a police officer. Alcohol reportedly played a part in Giroux’s actions. He was later released without facing charges.
In April 2014, then-Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ryan Malone was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession. He received 12 months probation and was bought out of his contract by the Lightning.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was arrested on domestic violence charges in October 2013 . All charges were eventually dropped.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was arrested in the summer of 2012 for suspicion of operating a motorboat while under the influence. He accepted a plea deal in which he paid a $1,000 fine and a reduced sentence of two days, which he spent doing community service.
Former Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet received two years probation in May 2007 from charges stemming from his involvement with an illegal gambling operation.
In April 2004, then-St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton was arrested for plotting to kill a man believed to be his agent. Danton was sentenced to 90 months in prison and never played in the NHL again.
In March 2000, Hall of Fame goaltender Eddie Belfour was arrested following an incident at a Dallas hotel. He later received two years probation and a $3,000 fine. In October 2000, Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy was arrested regarding an argument with his wife. No charges were filed.
Detroit Red Wings forward Bob Probert was arrested in March 1989 for cocaine possession at the US-Canada border. He served three months in prison.
Still, the names of NHL players don’t appear in tabloids or police blotters as frequently as athletes from other pro sports. That’s created the impression they’re clean-cut, charitable young men who are model citizens away from the ice. Even with their wealth and fame, most NHL players tend to lead quiet personal lives. It certainly isn’t fair to tar all of them for the actions of a few, and that certainly isn’t the intention here.
However, it’s because of that “boy-next-door” image of hockey players that any instance when one of them breaks the law becomes that much more shocking to NHL fans. We wax poetic over their impressive skills and button-down lifestyles, placing them on pedestals and expecting them to be paragons of virtue. We tend to forget they’re human beings, with the same faults and flaws as everyone else.
Some players, to their credit, attempt to live up to those high expectations. Most simply try to live their lives as best they can during their brief athletic careers. Some struggle to cope with that pressure during their playing days, sometimes even long after their retirement from the game. Some are plagued by personal demons. Occasionally, a handful of the latter meet a tragic end.
A few of them can sometimes be very flawed indeed. We shouldn’t dismiss their antics as “boys will be boys.” They’re as responsible for their actions as everyone else in society. If they break the law, they must pay for their transgressions.
If there’s any kind of lesson to draw from the recent stories of NHL players behaving badly, it’s that fame and fortune provide no immunity from the consequences of one’s actions.