Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is looking to become the first American-born player to win the NHL scoring title, and his season has garnered him a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The issue, which will hit newsstands Friday, will feature Kane on one of two regional covers (San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard will appear on the other), and will hit on Kane’s stellar season, as well as the criminal allegations against the forward over the summer.
The Erie County district attorney later dismissed the investigation, citing "significant material inconsistencies" between the accuser and other witnesses. The alleged accuser also said she no longer wanted to cooperate in the case.
"There’s been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to defend myself in the whole situation, but it’s kind of in the past now. I’m just looking forward to moving on from everything," Kane said in the exclusive interview.
The story also features interviews with Blackhawks President John McDonough, Owner Rocky Wirtz, New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and former Hawks G.M. Dale Tallon as they too address the sexual assault allegations as well as Kane's career arc.
In the article, Wirtz defends the decision to allow Kane to continue playing despite the claims being made against him.
“There were facts that we knew that were told to us—but hadn’t been made public—and that’s when we made our decision," he said. "We believed Patrick when he said he didn’t do anything. With the supporting facts around it, we took him at his word—and rightfully so, I think."
As for whether or not the allegations have fueled his success this season, Kane says he's simply working hard for his fans.
“Guys’ll say, ‘He’s been scared straight’, but I almost feel like I owe it to other people now," he told the publication. "Especially the Hawks’ organization, my family, my friends and the people who really supported me and believed in me.”
But when it comes to resentment in his hometown of Buffalo, Kane said "that's just the way it is."
"Maybe because I left Buffalo, maybe because I didn’t really grow up in Buffalo so much, maybe because I don’t play for the Sabres," he said. "But it’s my home: I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart.”
Kane has already notched 89 points this season, setting a new career high and giving the 27-year-old a 16-point lead over Stars forward Jamie Benn in the NHL scoring race. If Kane holds on and wins the Art Ross Trophy, he would not only become the first Blackhawks player since Stan Mikita to win the award, but he would also become the first American-born player in NHL history to win it.
“I’ve never seen hands like this… The puck seems to stick to his blade, you know? But Patrick’s kind of a new deal for me," Tallon, who drafted Kane, said in the spread. "Got a little bit of Savvy, a little bit of Gretzky, a bit of Jaromir Jagr. He’s a hybrid.”
The Blackhawks have made it a habit to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated recently, with their last appearance coming in the summer of 2015 after they won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.