Why can’t players like San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane breakthrough on the national level?
Sure, he’s not what one would call a crafty scorer, and his passes are far more utilitarian than flashy, but the 29-year-old Vancouver native is one of those rare forwards who just seem to love hitting his opponents, maybe even more so than the puck.
Since 2010, Kane has recorded 100-plus hits in every season but one – his rookie season in 2009-10 – and led the league in penalty minutes twice, in 2018-19, and again in 2019-20.
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When he’s on the ice, fans can be assured that Kane is going to be giving it his all for the full 200 feet, and when he’s off the ice? Well, Kane’s a bit of a social media celebrity, with well over half a million followers split between his very active Instagram page and slightly less so Twitter account.
Heck, even his “10 Things NHL Star Evander Kane Can’t Live Without” Youtube video with GQ Sports has 132,000 views and counting since it was posted back in October, a clear sign that ‘people in the know’ know Kane is a hockey renaissance man worthy of a bigger spotlight.
So, I rhetorically ask, why isn’t Kane a bigger star?
Yes, he technically isn’t a star star in the traditional NHL sense of the word. He’s never made an all-star game, has never recorded more than 30 assists or goals in a single season, and may very well find himself on a team in the midst of a rebuild in the not too distant future. With that being said, star players aren’t always the best players in their respective leagues, if you know what I mean. Odell Beckham Jr isn’t the best wide receiver in the NFL, and he has 14.2 million more followers than Julio Jones on Instagram. The same goes for basketball; LeMelo Ball, the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has 4.5 million more Instagram followers than the team that drafted him, the Charlotte Hornets.
Fun fact: The San Jose Sharks need roughly 482,000 more Instagram followers to even crack a million; a major, league-wide problem not solely unique to the Sharks.
For how little personality NHL players are able to share on the ice in any given game, Kane remains one of the league’s more gifted talkers off it, as evidenced by his fantastic TSNxUNINTERRUPTED video about helping to save Neighbour’s Restaurant and Pizza House in Vancouver. My goodness, how is that guy not selling me sneakers in targeted ads?
Oh wait, he sort of is, as evidenced by this Twitter ad from November 6th, but honestly, I didn’t even know about said Sharks-themed New Balance sneaker until digging deeper into his social media habits. I like both sneakers and hockey, so what gives?
Sure, once upon a time, Kane had an ugly reputation for being a bad guy during his four-year tenure in Winnepeg, but he’s since gone on to establish himself as a legit cornerstone player in San Jose, as evidenced by the massive seven-year, $49 million deal he signed with the Sharks back in 2018. Barring a total rebuild where any asset not physically bolted to the floor of the SAP Center is available for the right price, he’ll surely continue to represent the northern two-thirds of California’s favorite team and be among the biggest named hockey players in one of the richest areas of the country.
Maybe if hockey’s outreach stretched a bit further and attracted more younger fans, Kane would be right up there with the Steph Currys and Richard Shermans of the world – and Silicon Valley scene – as opposed to a fun human interest piece that only garners massive headlines when he founds progressive organizations like the ‘Hockey Diversity Alliance‘ to promote diversity in one of the sports that needs it the most.
But until that day comes, Evander Kane will remain one of those players that can bring in casual fans even if the old guard turns their heads at the NBA-ish way he handles his business. For a team like the San Jose Sharks that is rapidly having to redefine itself for the first time in what feels like the franchise’s history, maybe leaning into that style and dare I say swagger could be the key to capturing a whole new generation of would-be fans unsure of how to get into the game.