By Steve Silverman
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The center of the storm is in Hamburg, New York, but the dark clouds are gathering rapidly in Chicago and Toronto.
Police are investigating Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks to see what went on between one of the NHL's biggest stars and a young Buffalo-area woman at his home last weekend.
Kane was often described as an immature but fun-loving "kid" during his early years with the Blackhawks. His reported drunken forays into Midwestern college towns were often documented by embarrassing photographs. While Kane was always producing on the ice, it got to the point where team executives sat down with him and lectured him on growing up and flying right.
It certainly appeared that he had heeded those lessons in recent years. He has an on-ice legacy of scoring the biggest goals at the most important moments. He has buried pucks in overtime in several Stanley Cup playoff games, including the "is it in?" goal against the Philadelphia Flyers that gave the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup in 2010. He has also scored OT elimination goals against the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild throughout his career.
He has been quicksilver on the ice with fast feet and even slicker hands. You know that top-shelf backhand shot that nobody else can convert with any kind of precision? Kane owns that shot. He has been Showtime and Magic all rolled up in one for Joel Quenneville's Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cups in the last six years.
But now his legacy may be changing. He has not been arrested or formally accused of any crime. But there is trouble on the horizon.
The Buffalo News reports that the woman Kane brought home alleges that the star player took her to his home and raped her after meeting her in a Buffalo nightclub Saturday night or early Sunday.
The newspaper has also reported that police searched his home on Sunday, looking for evidence. The alleged victim went to a local hospital, where she was examined for physical signs that she had been raped.
Prosecutor Roseanne Johnson has been assigned to the investigation, and she specializes in sexual assault cases. She heads the Special Victims Unit in the Erie County District Attorney's Office.
Kane's defense attorney is Paul J. Cambria Jr., who represented the winger in 2009 when he was involved in an incident with a Buffalo cab driver.
These are serious storm clouds, and while information has been scarce, the information that has leaked out does not look good. When the head of the Special Victims Unit is named as the prosecutor, it's clear that Erie County is taking this seriously.
The NHL and the Blackhawks have yet to react. However, the whole world is watching, and neither the league nor the team will receive a pass if charges are filed.
The NHL is often viewed as the fourth of the four major sports, and according to popularity polls and TV ratings, there is no doubt that it belongs in that spot.
However, hockey fans are a rabid and insular group, and one's fandom is often seen as a badge of honor that is gladly worn from cradle (almost) to grave.
Chicago fans are holding their breath and hoping that "Kaner" is innocent and that charges will not be leveled. However, there is an undercurrent among the area's residents that something bad is about to happen.
The same thing is going on in the league's headquarters. Athletes in other sports often find themselves intertwined with the law, but reported incidents are less frequent in hockey.
That does not mean hockey players are better people and less inclined to break the law than those who inhabit the NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball. But the NHL is far more insular, and the very large majority of players are not American-born. As a result, incidents have a better chance of staying out of the spotlight.
However, that was not the case with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who pleaded no contest earlier this summer to a misdemeanor count of corporal injury to a spouse. The NHL suspended Voynov indefinitely Oct. 20 after he was arrested on a felony charge. He remains suspended.
Kane is under the spotlight right now, and everyone associated is waiting with bated breath to see what will happen next.
If the police and prosecutors determine there is enough evidence to charge Kane with the crime that the alleged victim has accused him of, the whole world will be watching to see how the Blackhawks and the NHL respond.
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