San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane again flatly denied that he wagered on NHL games — including his own to pay off gambling debts — and expects to be cleared of any wrongdoing in the league’s ongoing investigation.
In an interview with ESPN that aired Thursday, Kane also downplayed reported rifts with Sharks teammates, saying he became a lightning rod for criticism because of the team’s on-ice struggles. Some players reportedly told Sharks general manager Doug Wilson they no longer want Kane on the team.
“I think it’s easy to point the finger at me,” Kane said. “I think it’s easy to try to make me the scapegoat because of some of my personal issues that are playing out in the public and point to that. I think it’s an easy cop-out. At the same time, I don’t necessarily know or believe that that’s true. So, when it comes to the media, I really take it with a grain of salt.”
The NHL launched an investigation almost immediately after accusations were made on social media earlier this summer by Kane’s estranged wife, Anna, that the winger gambled on league games and was “throwing games to win money” because of arrangements with bookies.
In July 31 Instagram posts, Anna Kane asked: “How does the NHL let a compulsive gambling addict still play when he’s obviously throwing games to win money? Hmm maybe someone needs to address this. Can someone ask (commissioner) Gary Bettman how they can let a player gamble on his own games? Bet and win with bookies on his own games?”
Kane said he “definitely” had a problem with gambling at “certain points,” including in 2018 when gambled in a Las Vegas casino the night before a Sharks playoff game against the Vegas Golden Knights. But he said he never gambled on NHL games, intentionally tried to lose a game or altered the way he played because of a bet.
“Obviously, incredibly false,” Kane said. “It’s unfortunate that that transpired. It’s unfortunate that those allegations, false allegations, were made.
“Obviously, when they happened, I understood the magnitude of them immediately, not knowing what was going to happen next but confident because I know that’s not true. I knew none of what she was saying was true, and I was very confident, comfortable with where I was, knowing that I was going to be exonerated and I’m going to be exonerated of allegations.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet on Thursday that he expects the league’s investigation into Kane to be completed before Sharks training camp starts next week.
In 2019, the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas sued Kane over $500,000 (U.S.) in unpaid gambling debts. Court documents stated Kane was extended eight credits of between $20,000 and $100,000 around April 15. The Sharks played the Golden Knights on April 14 and April 16. The suit was dropped in April of last year.
“I gambled the night before a playoff game,” Kane said. “(I) wasn’t supposed to be doing it. Did it and obviously didn’t do very well.”
In January this year, Kane filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy listing assets of just over $10.2 million and liabilities over $26.8 million. According to the petition, he lost $1.5 million from gambling “at casino and via bookie (sports betting).”
Kane said in the ESPN interview that he’s no longer gambling and sought help for his addiction. It was something the Sharks were helping him with, Wilson said earlier this year.
“It’s like a drinking problem or a drug problem: sometimes you can’t control your actions,” Kane said. “I think probably the worst thing that ever happened to me was winning big because you think you can do it again. When you’re an athlete, the competitive juices are flowing, and then when you lose it bothers you and you want to go back and try to … anyways, you just keep digging deeper.
“But at the end of the day, it’s something that I went through and I’m looking forward to moving on from it.”
But in one of her Instagram posts earlier this summer, Anna Kane suggested that Kane’s gambling issues were ongoing, adding that “he wants to be able to gamble and live freely. Embarrassed in every way that things are public and I hope one day you realize that your GAMBLING is the problem. Not an ex-wife or anyone else.”
A report this summer by the Athletic said several Sharks players had become fed up with Kane over the course of last season citing a lax attitude toward team rules, including being late for practices and games and the players’ dress code.
Kane led the Sharks last season with 49 points in 56 games.
Kane and former Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson, according to the report, also nearly came to blows over a disagreement during a power-play meeting, and the perception among some players was that Kane could act without the worry of discipline from Wilson or coach Bob Boughner.
Kane wasn’t asked by ESPN about the reported incident with Thompson or any other specific run-ins with teammates. Asked what he wanted people to know about him, he said, “When you’re an athlete in a sport like I am … I’m in a white sport. I’m a Black player. I have a big personality that maybe rubs people the wrong way, but it’s not meant to.
“When it comes to what people don’t know, I think, unfortunately, a lot of the issues I’ve had or the allegations that have been made about me are just completely not true. I’m not looking for people to feel sorry for me; that’s the last thing I need. I’m not looking for people to feel bad for me. I’m just asking to be treated fairly and judged accordingly.”
Whether some Sharks players and Kane can get past whatever tensions still exist is unclear. The team begins training camp next week and assuming the NHL clears Kane, everybody will be back in the same environment again soon.
“I’m not going to sit here and pretend like there haven’t been things that come up, unfortunately, more than I would have liked. Some of it’s been public,” Kane said. “At the same time again, it’s about how you deal with it. I can sit here and feel sorry for myself. I could sit here and buy into the outside noise, and I’m choosing not to do that and focus on what I can control. And for me, so far, that’s proven to be successful.”
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