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From the Editor: On covering Evander Kane

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Let’s set some groundwork.

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 17: Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrates his goal against the Anaheim Ducks with teammates at First Niagara Center on December 17, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo defeated Anaheim 3-0. Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images

Hello again, friends.

I’ve been mentally drafting this piece for awhile. The Sharks have been linked to Evander Kane for some time now, so the reality of yesterday’s trade is one that I’d been waiting for and, quite frankly, dreading.

I haven’t yet shied away from discussing Evander Kane’s past. We’ve been lucky, as fans and as writers, that this has been an issue we’ve been able to avoid until now.

We no longer have that luxury.

Evander Kane has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment, in two separate instances.

But let’s rewind further: When I first started paying attention to the NHL, I just wanted to watch hockey. There were teams and players I liked from all over the league before I settled down with the Sharks. Evander Kane was one of those players who always caught my attention.

He had tattoos and a fun social media presence. He posted goofy pictures like the infamous “money phone” photo. He never seemed to take himself too seriously. In a league with so much of the same, he stood out.

The Patrick Kane rape case was something that was only really in my periphery at the time it happened. But I remember December of 2015, when the investigation launched into Evander Kane’s sexual assault of a woman in his hotel room. I vividly remember the immediate effect it had on me, but more so, the effect it had on my friends, some of them survivors of assault, who absolutely loved him.

When it comes to why Doug Wilson was the only offer on Kane at a deadline when the Sabres should have been selling and how he was able to get Kane for cheap, the assault allegations are inextricably tied to his perceived value and too often already, reporters have found ways to skirt around that undeniable fact.

I’m not happy, as a survivor of assault, to remember that overwhelming sense of betrayal and anger. I’m not happy to see Evander Kane wearing a jersey and a logo that I love more than anything and get praised for what he brings to the team.

Neither are many members of my staff.

But we also have a job to do. Regardless of our feelings, Evander Kane is a San Jose Shark and we cover the San Jose Sharks.

It’s Hockey is For Everyone month, still, for two short days. Now more than ever, it’s important to discuss how the ways that we talk about the players who have been accused of assault directly contribute to the culture that makes hockey feel unsafe for women and for survivors of assault. It’s not just this initiative I have to think about — there are two parts of the SB Nation Community Guidelines that apply to situations like this. We’ll get into one in a bit, but the first goes hand-in-hand with HIFE’s goals:

“We strive to make our communities open and inclusive to sports fans of all backgrounds.”

All backgrounds, including survivors of sexual assault.

To that end, we can’t please everybody. I know that. But I can prepare you for what coverage will look like moving forward and let you make the decision for yourself on what you’ll do.

We will have to talk about Evander Kane and on occasion, we will have to praise his hockey. This is unavoidable. And if that’s a line that’s uncomfortable for you personally: I hear you and I understand if you can’t accept that. Everyone is in a different place in their healing process and I would never tell someone how to respond. But as a writer covering this team, that’s where I have to be at.

To a similar end, I can’t bring up the assault allegations at every turn. I will absolutely discuss it in full detail when it’s relevant, but I am ultimately here to talk about hockey. Beyond that, bringing it up repeatedly can also be harmful to the survivors who would otherwise be able to brush past his name and move on. There’s a balancing act to be struck.

Most importantly, though, here’s what I won’t do: I will never play into Evander Kane’s redemption narrative. I will never gloss over the allegations as some kind of road block for Kane or something he just needed to put behind him. I will avoid using photos of him whenever I can. I will not talk about what he does away from the rink and I will not write features on Kane.

When it comes to Evander Kane, the only thing I will write about is his hockey and every piece with his name in it with be run through with a fine-toothed comb.

I have to write about Evander Kane, but I will never, ever have to like it.

There was second part of SB Nation’s Community Guidelines that I feel is important to bring up in relation to the Kane issue, as it doesn’t just apply to what my staff and I do:

The following is not permitted in comments, FanPosts, usernames or anywhere else in an SB Nation community. Please keep in mind that some SB Nation communities may have rules that may be more strict (i.e. no swearing at all) than those outlined below, but the following apply to all sites on the network.

6. Comments, FanPosts or usernames that make light of serious crime of any kind; specifically domestic violence, DUI, sexual assault.

I don’t care how you, personally, feel about the validity of the allegations against Kane. Per SB Nation’s guidelines, this isn’t a topic that we take lightly and that includes the comment section. For a lot of people, sports are more than just people on a screen and a lot of us in Sharks Territory are hurting right now. Be kind to each other.

I hope that in the six months that I’ve been Managing Editor, I’ve earned your trust insofar as making Fear the Fin a diverse and welcoming reader experience and that I’ve been able to handle such issues with professionalism. All I ask is to trust that I’ll continue to do so.

Thank you for reading.

Let’s go Sharks.