Why did the Chicago Blackhawks want Patrick Kane on the podium Thursday? It's a fair question to ask after the questionable, unnecessary appearance by the star forward, who's currently the subject of a criminal investigation in New York, during the team's press conference to open training camp at the University of Notre Dame.
"I cannot apologize enough for the distraction this has caused my family, my teammates, this incredible organization, and of course our fans," Kane said (via NBC Chicago). "While I have too much respect for the legal process to comment on an ongoing matter, I am confident that once all the facts are brought to light I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong."
Kane claimed his innocence during his brief comments, which came from a written script that was likely crafted in conjunction with the team. He said he was excited to get back to playing hockey. Questions were then asked -- even though the team requested reporters stick to hockey-related matters -- and went largely unanswered. The whole thing seemed to fail to grasp the magnitude of what's happening off the ice, where authorities are moving forward with a grand jury to determine whether to charge Kane following allegations of sexual assault.
None of this was productive.
It certainly wasn't what I would've hoped for after weeks of speculation over whether Kane would even wear the Hawks uniform again. Now it's becoming increasingly clear that the team (and the NHL) won't step up and try to set a new precedent for how professional sports franchises try to handle these tricky situations. They're going to circle the wagons. On the other hand, that part I can at least understand to some degree, even if I don't agree with it. Completely separating from Kane, without any charges at this point, would be difficult.
I can't really wrap my head around the way the team is handling all of this, though. Kane being allowed to participate in camp is one thing, but putting him on the podium to apologize to the fans and claim his innocence while backed by a Blackhawks logo-covered banner feels like a step too far. It ultimately comes off like the whole point of the exercise was to remind everyone that the team is firmly behind him. The narrative is already starting to be crafted.
And none of that was necessary. The team didn't need to trot Kane out there to make a statement. The team didn't need to ask reporters to avoid questions on the topic. The team didn't need to make Kane the complete focal point of the press conference. Even if they know something we don't, even if they're confident he won't be charged, this felt inessential. And yet, there we were, watching as reporters tried to get any sort of meaningful quote on the situation from Kane, team president John McDonough or coach Joel Quenneville.
Yeah, this is a complicated and challenging situation without obvious answers. But if you wanted to just focus on hockey and make sure there are no questions on the Kane situation, it's awfully curious to put him on a podium for the first press conference of the season. That was embarrassing, and doesn't exactly make me proud to be a fan right now.