For sports fans there is nothing like a championship. The only thing better is multiple championships, a dominant run at history – a dynasty. You watch a franchise build a team. You follow young athletes as they grow from rumors to superstars. You watch veterans expire every effort to reach the pinnacle. Your team goes out every given night and professionally kicks ass. The playoffs come around and all that talent, potential, and experience comes to fruition in a glorious streak to a title. The Chicago Bulls of the 90s, the Yankees at the end of the 20th Century, the Patriots, and now the Chicago Blackhawks.
As a Chicago fan the Blackhawks of the past decade have been quite a thing. They have gone from the depths of the NHL – and professional sports – to the very top in performance and reputation. Fans have gone along for the ride. Remnants of Bulls fans, frustrated White Sox and Cubs fans, and disgusted Bears fans have jumped on board. When the Stanley Cup playoffs come around in the Spring workers shuffle out of the office early. It’s happy hour. The beer gardens are overflowing. The bars and restaurants start counting money like retailers at Christmas. People are happy.
It will never be the same again. And it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the Patrick Kane situation is. It doesn’t matter if the Blackhawks win another Cup. The Blackhawks thing was like a glorious party where everyone got a little too drunk. And like every mega-party someone got blackout drunk. He or she doesn’t remember what they did, but they don’t feel very good about it. Unfortunately, for the Blackhawks’ party someone got in trouble. It’s like someone got in a bad accident on the way home.
But it’s not like that. It’s potentially much worse. And it doesn’t matter anymore if Patrick Kane did something horrible, or he just got too drunk. Since he showed up at the party Kane’s histrionics have been sophomoric, embarrassing, and only slightly criminal. His current situation, however, hovers like a dark black cloud over all the Blackhawk festivities. Three Stanley Cups are fine, but one rape accusation is way too much. For lots of Blackhawks fans it’s not a matter of whether he is guilty or innocent. It’s the seriousness of the alleged incident. Too many times Kane has stumbled into the night with reckless abandon. Who knows what happened that night in his suburban Buffalo home? Does he?
That’s the problem.
No one knows anything about that night in his home, but all Chicago fans know that Kane likes to party. In 2012 Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports chronicled Kane’s history of public drunkenness in an article appropriately titled, “Party on, Kaner: Patrick Kane’s public inebriation leads to consternation in sports media.”
He’s the kind of guy who parties with his buddies, wearing T-shirts that depicted a shirtless Kane partying in the back of a limo in Vancouver. The kind of 23-year-old whose reaction to the end of his season is to head to Madison, WI for a weekend of drunken debauchery. An NHL player whose drunken exploits, dalliances with women and occasional interactions with cab drivers have earned Kane his own department on Deadspin.
One of Kane’s more disturbing segments on Deadspin was a supposedly post-coital photo taken by a woman who claimed to have gone home with Kane after a night of serious partying. Through social media The Buffalo News pieced together Kane’s weekend whereabouts before the alleged incident in August.
Again, none of Kane’s publicly documented exploits mean that he is guilty of anything. It’s the doubt that surrounds everything. There is nothing inherently wrong with partying or cashing in on the excesses of celebrity; but at some point it’s just time to go home and sleep it off. In the deepest depths of the blackout night anything can happen. People are human. Unfortunately, for a public figure like Kane, the cameras flash images that are more enduring than his memory.
In Chicago it’s been an exhilarating ride. Fans have watched Kane, Toews, and Duncan Keith grow up before their eyes. Hockey has reached unimaginable heights in a city ruled by the other three major sports. In waiting rooms the doctors, nurses, and patients chat up the latest victory. The neighborhood kids rollerblade around the cul-de-sacs. The chatter at family dinners and barbeques inevitably comes around to the Hawks. The sweaters, the hats, the bumper stickers. Everyone is on board.
Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough built a franchise that is the envy of the NHL. Three Stanley Cups in six years put Chicago in the dynasty conversation. The Blackhawks have been the princes of the city. And now it’s all over. It will never be the same.
The party was great. The hosts wake up and begin sifting through the debris. Empty bottles and half-filled cups litter the kitchen and the living room. The stories are regaled. “Did you see him?” “Did she do what?” Everything was perfect. The event. The celebration. The food. The liquor. The liquor. And the liquor. Everybody had a blast. And then the phone rang. Not everyone made it home safely. Someone got hurt.