As the Buffalo Sabres arrived for training camp Thursday, only one player faced questions about a criminal case.
Despite that fact, Evander Kane shrugged off his legal problems as merely something that happens to athletes.
“These situations are what they are,” Kane said in KeyBank Center. “They happen to athletes or people in a position such as myself. Those are things you just have to deal with and kind of come with the territory. In saying that, you have to be a little more aware and kind of put yourself on a higher pedestal than you maybe think you are.
“Off the ice, these things unfortunately happen more often than not. They’re only becoming more and more relevant every day if you look around the other sports. For me, it’s just trying to stay out of that kind of stuff, kind of picking my spots better.”
Asked to agree that these situations still happen to a small percentage of athletes, Kane said, “I couldn’t comment.”
Kane, 25, is charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass and five noncriminal charges of disorderly conduct and harassment in connection with encounters he allegedly had with female patrons and a bouncer at a Buffalo bar in June. He is scheduled to return to court Oct. 31.
“I’ve been focused on hockey all summer,” he said. “I haven’t really put too much thought or emphasis on the other stuff. I’ve just kind of narrowed my focus and focused on hockey and my training, and I’m feeling pretty good about that.”
While Sabres General Manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma expressed disappointment during the summer that Kane generated negative headlines, the forward said Thursday he has not spoken with team management about the case. He also said he has not heard from the NHL.
His teammates did comment.
“I would hope that he wants to stay a little more low profile around things,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “On the ice he can give us a certain dimension that we need and that we want for a teammate to come in and work hard the way he does and play the game hard. Hopefully, he’s still maturing as an individual off the ice.
“Whenever you represent a team, you want to represent it to the best character and have those character guys. You’re representing the logo, and that’s what everybody has to have in mind no matter what you’re doing.”
Kane says he is maturing.
“I turned 25 on Aug. 2, so I’m getting older, I’m maturing just as everybody else,” he said. “I think every year, every day you mature as a person and as a player. That’s kind of the product of the work ethic to your craft, and for me that’s something I’ve done my entire life and have continued to do throughout the summer.”
Kane, who had a tarnished image in Winnipeg, got a fresh start with his trade to Buffalo in February 2015. His June run-in, coupled with a sexual assault allegation in December, has burned that fresh start to ashes.
“I’m just focused on this season and trying to have the best season of my career so far,” Kane said. “It’s not about necessarily proving to everybody else. It’s kind of proving more so to myself, knowing what I’m capable of and just kind of executing that and putting that on display.”