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World Cup notebook: NHL could have its say in Kane case

TORONTO – The NHL is watching the Patrick Kane investigation closely as the clock ticks toward next week’s start of training camps and the league could undertake its own investigation if a settlement is made in the case.

That was the word from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who responded to questions from The Buffalo News on Kane here Wednesday. Bettman said the league is in wait-and-see mode when it comes to the status of the Chicago Blackhawks star, who is currently being investigated for an alleged sexual assault in his Hamburg home last month.

“Obviously whenever a player is involved in something like Patrick Kane is subject to right now in terms of the authorities investigating and looking, it’s unfortunate,” Bettman said. “It’s a terrible thing but we’re going to have to watch the process play out and at the appropriate time we’ll make whatever decisions have to be made at the time.

“In terms of player conduct, overwhelmingly you look at NHL players and they conduct themselves magnificently on and off the ice. We, meaning the Players Association and the league, have a number of programs and counseling and educational forums in place to hopefully ensure players are focused on doing the right things – which they do overwhelmingly. When you get a situation where there’s this type of attention and focus, we believe you deal with it on a case-by-case basis because rarely are two of these circumstances identical.”

Bettman was speaking at the announcement of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Kane is almost certain to be a key member of Team USA but was not part of the press conference, nor he was part of the NHL Media Tour held here Tuesday with rights holders to kick off the season.

Bettman downplayed Kane’s absence, as the rotation of stars on the Media Tour changes from year to year. But Kane – a three-time Stanley Cup champion – almost certainly would have joined the likes of Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist and Zdeno Chara on the stage Wednesday for the World Cup announcement to represent Team USA.

Kane’s potential grand jury proceedings were postponed on Tuesday amid chatter there may be a settlement between the parties in his case. While the justice calendar moves at its own pace, the league and Blackhawks are on their own calendar with Chicago’s training camp opening Sept. 17 at Notre Dame.

Bettman has the power to suspend Kane for an indefinite period under Article 18, Section 5 of the CBA, if he feels Kane’s presence would “create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”

“At the appropriate time we will look into it,” Bettman said. “But when somebody is subject to an investigation by law enforcement, they’re generally not too anxious to get involved with any other parties until they get that behind them one way or the other.”

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Former Sabres winger Miroslav Satan said he was thrilled to accept an invitation to serve as general manager of Team Europe for the World Cup.

Satan, 40, last played in the NHL for Boston in 2009-10 and scored a goal in double overtime to give the Bruins a win over the Sabres in Game Four of their first-round playoff series that season. He extended his career by playing four more years in his native Slovakia, retiring in 2014.

Satan, who played three years for the New York Islanders following the 2005 NHL lockout, still lives on Long Island and said he had made no post-career plans when he was called by Team Europe President Franz Reindl, the president of the German Hockey Federation.

“I view it as a celebration of hockey,” said Satan, who played for the Sabres from 1996-2004 and scored 40 goals on Buffalo’s 1999 Stanley Cup final team. “… I’m looking forward to it. It’s something new, uncharted territory for us. Definitely looking forward to putting together a team that can compete and that can create problems and win games.”

Team Europe will have several countries to choose from but Satan said management will not try to ensure at least one player from each possible nation.

“Many countries are disappointed they didn’t get their own team so now we have to play together,” he said. “Slovak players, Swiss players. German. Denmark. Austria and there’s other countries with one or two players that might be on the team. Our issues will be how we quickly make a team, find identity and make these guys one team.”

Satan said he will certainly watch Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, a native of Latvia, and admitted he’s intrigued in general by the Sabres’ massive rebuilding project led by the drafting of Jack Eichel.

“Every team goes through that. Now it’s probably Buffalo’s time to rebuild,” he said. “They have this exciting young player coming in and hopefully they have more. It takes some time for every team to rebuild. From my time being there, people were always behind the team and I’m sure they’ll give the team enough time and patience.”

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Bettman said the league is hoping to restart preseason and regular season games in Europe in the future. The Sabres played in Germany and Finland to open the 2011-12 season. … Tampa Bay/Team Canada’s Steven Stamkos on Team Europe: “Whose anthem will they play if they win the tournament?” A smiling Bettman’s response: “We’ll get to it.”

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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