Despite being a player who only received limited exposure during his first two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, Evander Kane has already made a positive impression on hockey fans. It’s pretty tough to dislike a player who was named after Evander Holyfield (and who lived up to that billing when he scored a karmic one-hit knockout on Matt Cooke). Now it seems like long-time hockey fans will also associate Kane with legendary goal scorer Bobby Hull.
Before the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets, few people cared that Kane wore No. 9. It’s a number he’s worn for much of his budding hockey career. That situation became very different once the team took on the Jets’ name, though.
In case you’re not a hockey history buff, Hull wore No. 9 during his foray with the World Hockey Association’s incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. He played parts of eight seasons with the Jets, scoring more than 300 goals and over 600 points in about 400 games with Winnipeg.* Hull’s peak season came in 1974-75 when he scored a stunning 77 goals and 142 points at the age of 36.
Looking at those lofty numbers, it makes sense that Kane is a little nervous about wearing No. 9. If this story in the Vancouver Province is any indication, he’s more concerned about offending Hull’s sensibilties than he is about the pressure that would come from wearing that iconic number.
“It’s almost like asking a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage,” says Kane, who plans to speak to Bobby Hull about wearing No. 9, the sweater the Golden Jet made famous in Winnipeg and had retired by the previous incarnation of the team.
“I’ve read somewhere on Twitter that he had done an interview and said that he wanted me to wear it proudly. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to speak to him soon. If he doesn’t have an issue with me wearing it, I’ll do my best on and off to live up to wearing that number. If I have to change, I’ll change.”
“I’m excited to play in Canada, to play under a microscope. I like the pressure. I perform better under the pressure. If you can embrace the pressure and embrace the expectations that will come from playing in a city like Winnipeg, it can only lead to good things for you, both on and off the ice.”
If nothing else, Kane seems like he has at least some of Hull’s famous swagger. He has a long way to go before he even approaches Hull’s prolific scoring ways even relative to these lower scoring times (Kane scored a career-high 43 points in 2010-11, his second season in the NHL), but it seems like he might have the moxie to live up to wearing that number. If nothing else, he came into the league expecting some scrutiny as the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
This dilemma ultimately comes from the fact that True North is allowed to use the Winnipeg Jets brand even though the “history” of that franchise is technically tied up to the Phoenix Coyotes organization. If you ask me, Kane should be able to wear the number (and Winnipeg fans are embracing the idea, at least judging from this poll) as long as he’s willing to handle the heat that comes with it.
* The exact numbers are a little foggy. The Vancouver Province lists his goal total at 303 and so does hockey-reference.com, yet that might have left out the four goals he scored in an abbreviated 1979-80 season. Whether it’s 307 or 303, that’s still a ridiculous amount of goals in a bit more than 400 games.
(H/T to Puck Daddy.)