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Patience key as Evander Kane’s sex assault investigation unfolds

The Patrick Kane case will affect how the Sabres and NHL handle Evander Kane in the wake of a sex assault investigation of the Sabres star.

Upon hearing the news that Sabres forward Evander Kane is under investigation for sexual assault, it’s tempting to react with a jaded “here we go again” sigh.

Another off-ice incident involving a player with a blemished reputation. Another black eye for the NHL.

But if we learned anything this past summer from Patrick Kane and his months-long journey down the legal rabbit hole, it’s that none of us are in position to make assumptions of guilt or innocence from the comfort of our armchairs.

So, let’s all take a deep breath, put our biases aside and recognize that facts, at this point, remain scarce.

Report: Evander Kane under investigation for sexual assault

We know, not from the police but from comments issued by the Sabres, that Kane is under investigation for an incident that allegedly occurred on Sunday morning in a downtown Buffalo hotel room near the First Niagara Center.

“We take the allegation made today against Evander Kane very seriously,” read the team’s statement. “We are gathering facts and have been in touch with the NHL and Evander’s representatives. Until we have more information we will not have any additional comment.”

We also know that Kane has not been charged with any crime.

Beyond that, it’s all speculation. And as we learned over the summer, that can be dangerous and misleading territory.

So let’s resolve to do better this time.

Let’s not assume that Kane’s accuser is a gold digger or an attention seeker or someone who didn’t get what she wanted from the player. Instead, let her be someone who deserves privacy during a very difficult time, along with the benefit of a thorough and impartial investigation into her claims.

Sabres’ Kane says he’s innocent amid sex crime investigation

Let’s not let Kane’s checkered past or questions about his character affect our assumptions of what he might, or might not, be capable of doing. Past social media miscues or friction with former teammates might indicate immaturity, but there’s no straight line to be drawn from those random incidents to sexual assault. Until proven otherwise, he deserves the presumption of innocence.

Let’s allow the Sabres and the NHL to make the call on how to handle this. The Blackhawks didn’t exactly drape themselves in glory while dealing with Patrick Kane last summer, and there are lessons to be learned from their mistakes, especially the decision to drag him in front of the press, allow him to say nothing, and then proceed with a rah-rah season-opening event. But ultimately the Hawks were vindicated in their decision to support him after the Erie County district attorney chose not to file charges.

And so was the NHL for choosing not to suspend Kane. As Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained over the summer, the league is limited in what it can do under the terms of the CBA in the absence of legal evidence and/or an arrest. Proceeding with caution proved to be the right course of action then and it almost certainly will be the way the team and the league handle this developing situation now.

• NHL players and their brushes with the law

Aftermath of Patrick Kane case leaves only losers and sour taste

And finally, let’s allow the authorities the time to do their jobs. Clearly, lessons were learned from the bizarre twists and turns of the Patrick Kane investigation, and those will inform how this case is pursued. It could take longer than we’d like—“We do not expect it to be resolved in the very near future,” a police source told The Buffalo News—but getting it done right is what all sides deserve.

We’d all rather be talking about the Winter Classic or the World Juniors or why scoring is down in the NHL, but this story isn’t going away any time soon. Here’s hoping the lessons we all learned over the summer will keep the discussion fair and honest.

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