The hockey world, or more specifically the online hockey world, is questioning the integrity, the morality, and the purity of the game's greatest talent — and on reasonable grounds.
Connor McDavid's answers and explanations when probed over the possibility of Evander Kane joining the Edmonton Oilers were disappointing, at best. He was antagonistic, mildly combative, markedly indifferent, and not a bit sympathetic to the idea of the Oilers adding Kane, making others — or at least fans — feel a certain type of way.
What benefitted the Oilers, it seemed, was all that matters when contemplating the acquisition, which of course reflects a problematic pattern in hockey.
I understand the frustration. In a perfect world, those we idolize and lionize do stand for something. They are influential and charismatic. They not only believe in what's right, but they can speak on things in a way that can deliver maximum impact.
Of course, the world often doesn't work this way. And as flawless as he is as a hockey player, McDavid clearly isn't equipped to eloquently handle the situation he found himself in.
However, I do think we should absorb all sides and every ounce of context before we question every fibre of someone's being when handling a situation that exists outside their comfort zone.
We need to consider The Why.
The success of the Edmonton Oilers is one thing that encompasses McDavid's world. It's the factor that will most define his career, his identity, and which shapes all the decisions he makes in his life. We all have these considerations in our silos, be it our professions, relationships, or passions. What's different for him is that his Priority No. 1 not only plays out in a public forum, but he's responsible for everyone else who feels as passionately as he does about the franchise.
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) January 12, 2022
There is an immense amount of pressure in his world. And McDavid, just like the franchise he captains, is desperate.
Despite his history, Kane exists, likely mistakenly, as something of a life raft.
Based on where the Oilers find themselves, it's not farfetched to believe that McDavid is experiencing the sort of desperation that would allow him to accept risk, or rationalize behaviour, or welcome someone with legitimate issues into his world.
Now, this isn't to excuse that line of thinking — but to perhaps explain it.
In fact, this was another example, laid bare, of the bigger issues in hockey and the idea of winning superseding morality. It's the same line of thinking which enabled the cover-up of sexual abuse inside the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
It doesn't excuse it in the slightest. My hope is that this situation, which is sensitive and serious but not on the same level, will give McDavid a chance to contemplate his role when considering the greater good of the game.
Oilers GM Ken Holland says he has spoken to Evander Kane's agent.
What do you think Oilers fans? pic.twitter.com/HlAnDd1CRQ
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) January 11, 2022
Beyond that, however, the Oilers need to re-evaluate their standards as they fall over themselves to woo a player with a history of choosing himself over his family, friends, and employers.
The organization has clearly determined that Kane's transgressions — and previous allegations that can be both unsubstantiated and true — shouldn't preclude him from playing in the league.
Having determined that, it was incumbent on the organization to have picked up the serious nature of this still-just-potential relationship, and provided some baseline coaching to help its employees handle the situation. In other words, how could they let McDavid — the player that means the world to the club — answer questions on Kane in the manner that he did?
That brings me to another important piece of context.
Whether he advocated for the addition, green-lit the expressed interest or was left out of the conversations entirely, it's still McDavid's job, as captain, to support the decisions made by the team.
Yes, he could have — and should have — provided a far more thoughtful and sympathetic answer to soften what's an inevitable blow, but to expect McDavid to openly question the courtship of Kane would be to expect him to belie his responsibility as the captain of the team.
Again, just an explanation.
In this moment, McDavid needed the insulation of his organization, and not to be the one providing the insulation for his organization.
It's just another example of the Oilers hanging their superstar out to dry.
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