Kane deserves benefit of doubt in court of public opinion

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In that regard, Patrick Kane, Buffalo native and Chicago Blackhawks star who makes just shy of $1 million per season (with untold riches still to come) and appears to have a severe case of public transportation hostility syndrome, presents a bit of a problem.

For one thing, the 20-year old is facing charges that could rise to the level of felony for an altercation he and a cousin may or may not have had in his hometown, hasn't been convicted of anything anywhere except in the court of public opinion. It is there that he will spend a long time dealing with charges of stupidity for arguing with a 62-year old cab driver who, according to the police report, came up two dimes shy of making change on the Kanes' fare.

So it's not like we can tag Kane with a nickname like "Killer." Rae Carruth and O.J. Simpson have that moniker pretty much locked up. Kane is a mild-mannered hockey player with a reputation more in line with "Cruiser" than "Crusher." I mean, the biggest rap on the guy is that he rarely visits the chaotic corners of a rink let alone hits anyone he encounters there. He also has an ego equal to a 20-something who has found fame, fortune and some success at an age when most of his peers are trying to settle on a major.

"Killer Kane" maybe if we're talking about sticking it to the Calgary Flames in the playoffs. Otherwise, forget about it.

"Mad Dog" is pretty much off the board as well. Kane isn't known to have attended a dog show let alone run a dogfighting ring a la the dogged Michael "Hard Time" Vick. Heck, if Kane can't let 20 cents slide into a cabbie's "take-a-dime-leave-a-dime" jar, it's hard to imagine he'd ever surrender a buck or two on a treat for the family pet let alone finance dogfighting. With the amount of money involved here, this kid falls three dimes short of being a threat to Fifty Cent.

It should be stated for the record that the only known street games the kid is known to have participated in involved hockey with Stan Bowman's kids when Kane lived with the then-assistant general manager (now GM) of the Blackhawks and regularly let them put the hook on him as they tried to keep him from filling the net with tennis balls in the driveway of their suburban home.

Don't even go into the arena of performance-enhancing drugs. Look at the kid. He can't weigh 175 pounds with his equipment on. Catch him with his shirt off and you're likely to want to make a donation to a Chicago-area food bank. "P-Roid" doesn't apply as the only clear or cream this kid is likely to have ever applied came out of a tube of Clearasil..

But there's something else at play here besides my having some fun at the expense of yet another athlete who's managed to step into something he should have had the good sense to avoid, and that's the rush to judgment and the bit of media overkill in this matter.

In recent days there have been mainstream columns and blog posts questioning Kane's character and judgment. That's to be expected given the allegations against him and even his response, which happened to be hiring one of the most expensive high-profile lawyers in the country and then standing inside a cone of silence while Paul Cambria -- who's most famously known for defending Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt before the U.S. Supreme Court -- does a string of interviews proclaiming his client's innocence.

One could reasonably argue that Kane would have been better served, at least from a public perception point of view, had he stood and spoken for himself regarding what happened, or at the very least made a statement apologizing for the embarrassment the incident has caused his family, his friends and fans, and his employers, the Chicago Blackhawks.

That's reasonable. But where the lines are getting blurred and -- in some instances -- crossed, are in the area of reasonable doubt. That's one of the principles upon which this country was founded. It's the concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It's also a concept that is fast losing ground in America as we seem more inclined to hand out justice Jerry Springer-style than wait for facts and presentations in a court of law.

I've seen and read reports arguing that Kane not only might have a problem with the selection committee for Team USA and the 2010 Olympics (reasonable) as well as claims that the committee should refuse him consideration (patently unfair). I read a report that argued that the Blackhawks, who pride themselves on being a close-knit group akin to a family, should cut or trade Kane because there should be no place for him on a franchise that preaches accountability. One opinion went so far as to maintain that it would be a stain on team President John McDonough if he didn't dismiss Kane. Another argued that it will be a true test for newly-commissioned GM Bowman to make a deal to rid the Hawks of this young scourge.

Talk about a high-tech lynching.

Kane may well have done what the police report claims: rough up a 62-year-old cab driver in a dispute over 20 cents. But it's also possible that he didn't, and that there's more to the story that we simply don't know. Whatever the outcome, it's eminently arguable that if there was physical contact, it might not rise to the level of assault. It's even possible that Kane didn't even lay a hand on the driver and that this entire matter has been exactly what the driver's attorney claims: a situation that has "been blown out of proportion."

What's on the record are allegations, nothing more.

Those allegations will be investigated, attorneys will make their case, and if the matter even gets billed out as an indictment by a grand jury, Kane has a right to defend himself against the charges and hire an attorney of his choosing. The matter will proceed from there.

What USA Hockey, the Blackhawks and the media -- mainstream and bloggers alike -- need to do is respect that and let reason and the rule of law run its course.

It may come as a novel concept to some, but it's one some of us used to respect.

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