The National Hockey League and the Chicago Blackhawks do not want Patrick Kane representing their brands.
The Buffalo News has learned Kane was not invited to the NHL’s annual preseason media tour Tuesday and Wednesday, when 40 of the top veteran players gather to make television promos that will appear throughout the upcoming season.
The NHL and Blackhawks mostly have been silent on Kane’s status since a woman accused him of raping her Aug. 2 at his lakefront mansion in the Town of Hamburg. Not inviting the four-time All-Star to this year’s media tour helps the NHL and the Blackhawks keep their distance from one of the world’s most identifiable players.
The News, citing multiple sources, reported Friday that the rape investigation was nearing an end and the case would be presented to a grand jury this week.
An NHL spokesman declined to comment Monday but said the league didn’t have to make a decision on Kane because he wouldn’t necessarily have been invited, anyway.
The NHL spokesman said that more than two players per team rarely get invited to the media tour and superstars don’t always participate. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and postseason MVP Duncan Keith will represent them this year.
Kane would seem an appropriate exception to the two-per-team rule. He has been invited to the media tour multiple times in the past, and, as one of America’s elite players, U.S. television rights-holder NBC Sports normally would consider his involvement appealing.
Who attends the NHL’s annual media tour is jointly decided by the league and individual teams. This year’s event will take place in Toronto, about 120 miles away from Kane’s residence. In years past, the event has been held in Manhattan.
Brandon Faber, the Blackhawks’ senior communications and community relations director, said Friday that the team couldn’t answer whether Kane will return to training camp with the rest of the defending Stanley Cup champions Sept. 18.
Charged or not, Kane’s stardom continues to get overshadowed by the allegations. He’s losing face, losing the ability to represent the NHL and losing opportunities to make money off his name.
EA Sports last month dropped Kane as spokesman and cover boy for its “EA Sports NHL 16” video game.
Kane’s junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, abandoned plans to call one of their training camp squads Team Kane.
Kane has won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and received the prestigious Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason most valuable player in 2013. He was the NHL’s first overall pick and rookie of the year for 2007-08.
He is averaging nearly a point per game over his career, has led the Blackhawks in scoring in the last two postseasons and is only the second player since the team was founded in 1926 to record at least 50 points each of his first seven seasons.
At 26 years old, he already ranks among the top 40 U.S.-born players in goals, power-play goals and assists. He is fourth all-time in points per game behind Hockey Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine and Joe Mullen, and Craig Janney.
Kane is a two-time Olympian, winning a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
All-Star forward Zemgus Girgensons will represent the Buffalo Sabres at the annual media tour. First-round draft pick Jack Eichel was not invited because he is a rookie.