In a more innocent age, a young boy stood on the steps of a Chicago courthouse looking up at disgraced Chicago White Sox baseball star “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who had just been convicted of helping to conspire of throwing the 1919 World Series.
Looking up through unbelieving eyes, the boy asked the immortal question of his idol, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
For the crowds of youth hockey players who stood in the rain outside the Seven Bridges Arena, the question they wanted to ask their hockey hero was along the same lines.
“Say it ain’t so, Patrick.”
While today’s fans have become numb to seeing their sporting heroes in the news for more than their on field exploits, these hockey fans were willing to give their hero the benefit of the doubt.
Patrick Kane, the 20-year-old superstar of the Chicago Blackhawks, has been in the news lately for a late night incident involving a Buffalo cab driver that left the hockey world shaking its head. Not only was the incident out of character for the No. 1 draft pick of the Blackhawks in 2007, it also centered around a 20 cent tip.
To the players and parents in the arena to see the U.S. Olympic orientation camp, they were willing to forgive and forget their hero’s indiscretion, and wanted to hear his side of the story.
“You learn from your mistakes. He’s a young kid and sometimes kids do dumb things,” said Leila Dushane, who stood at the front of the line with her mother and daughter.
“His youth showed and he acted his age,” said Brent Meyers, who brought his son and several other Peewee players over from Rockford, Ill. “Still, he is a professional athlete and shouldn’t allow himself to be put in a situation like that. He has got to conduct himself like a professional. Kids look up to him.”
Kane addressed the media prior to the start of the camp in an effort to keep the focus on the ice and begin the process of putting this ugly incident behind him.
“I know that everyone wants to talk about what happened in Buffalo. As you know the legal proceedings are pending and I cannot discuss the details at this time,” said Kane.
Looking a bit like a deer in the media headlights, Kane made a statement on Monday, but since the case is still ongoing, he couldn’t offer details surrounding the incident at 4 a.m. on Aug. 9. Kane was supposed to appear in front of a Buffalo judge the same morning as the opening of camp but received a delay to skate with 33 other Olympic hopefuls.
While Kane couldn’t offer specifics, a Buffalo police spokesman said the dispute in question centered around Kane and his cousin James Kane were traveling back from the Chippewa Street Nightlife district of the city. There was a dispute over the fare and Kane and his cousin were charged with second-degree robbery, a Class C felony, as well as fourth-degree criminal mischief and theft of services, both Class A misdemeanors. The pair pleaded innocent to all charges.
“Because I put myself in being in the wrong position at the wrong time, I have caused a lot of pain for my family, my hometown of Buffalo, the city of Chicago, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the great fans we have here in Chicago. For that part I sincerely apologize,” said Kane.
As quickly as he arrived, Kane slipped out a side door and down to the locker room to meet with fellow American teammates before heading out to the ice for the first of three on-ice sessions.
As he hit the ice, he received a huge ovation from a throng of fans, many of whom were sporting Blackhawks jerseys with “Kane 88” on the back. For them, the incident is over, and it’s time to drop the puck on a great camp and another successful season.
“I’m looking for him to set the record straight and move on and get ready for the season,” said Meyers.
“I agree,” said 12-year-old Kevin Ward. “It’s time to focus on hockey.”
Harry Thompson is the editor of USA Hockey Magazine.