Evander Kane denies throwing Sharks games, as Anna Kane alleges


The allegations leveled against San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane last week by his estranged wife are unprecedented in nature.

Anna Kane’s posts on her Instagram account last weekend claimed that Evander Kane bet on NHL games, including his own, and was “throwing games with bookies to win money.”

That specific type of language has never been used in association with an NHL player, and the league quickly released a statement saying it would investigate. Kane, 30, has documented gambling issues, declaring in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in January that he had incurred $1.5 million in losses due to sports wagering “at casinos and via bookie.”

The day after his estranged wife’s allegations, Kane issued a firm denial via Twitter.

But the question is alive: How would a hockey player throw a game?

“I don’t think a skater can throw a game,” a longtime former NHL player told this news organization on the condition of anonymity. “I think there’s just too many variables involved.

“If any player had the ability to throw a game, I think we would all agree that the only position would be a goalie, and that also would be very difficult.”

Common types of bets in hockey include the money line (simply wagering on which team will win), the over/under (wagering on the total goals scored for each game), and the puck line (games that have a set point spread: -1.5 on the favorite, +1.5 on the underdog).

To clarify, the allegations made by Anna Kane against Evander Kane included “throwing” games, which implies that he was doing things to cause his team to lose.

How would he do that?

Taking penalties

Almost 20 percent of the goals scored during the 2020-21 season came with the man advantage. In other words, power plays can have a huge role in the outcome of a game, particularly for gamblers who are paying close attention to the money or puck lines, or the over/under. So in theory, a player could throw a game by taking unnecessary penalties, leaving his team a man short on the ice.

Over the past three full seasons with the Sharks, Kane has taken a league-high 89 minor penalties. He took four stick penalties in one Sharks game against St. Louis in January.

The Sharks won the game 2-1 in a shootout. Also, the officials were whistle-happy, calling eight minors on the Blues that night, so both teams had plenty of power-play chances. Boston’s Brad Marchand, too, saw plenty of the penalty box over the last three seasons with 81 minor penalties in that span.

This season, Kane had 28 penalty minutes in the first 13 games. He had only 14 penalty minutes over the final 43 games.

Time on ice

Kane regularly led all Sharks forwards in ice time this past season, averaging more than 20 minutes per game. He plays in all situations: power play, penalty kill, and on the top line at even strength. Usually, only two or three defensemen, and the goalie, spend more time on the ice.

A hockey player in that position would have opportunities to purposely turn the puck over to create a scoring chance for the other team, fail to skate hard on a backcheck or lose coverage in the defensive zone.

But if a hockey player does those things too often, his ice time will diminish.

“A coach’s impact, noticing that a player’s not giving his best effort — that certainly would be an issue,” said the former veteran NHL player. “I don’t care who you are, if you’re dogging it, in our game, you’re going to be on the bench.”

As an example, Kane was benched for the final period of a Feb. 2020 game against the New York Rangers after some particularly sloppy or half-hearted play led to two goals for the opposition.

Also, the player pointed out, there are 17 other skaters and a goalie who can — and do — work to nullify the mistakes of one teammate.

All things considered, Kane would still seemingly have far less influence in a game than a quarterback in football, a pitcher in baseball or a point guard in basketball. Kane doesn’t have the puck on his stick in NHL games as much as key players in other sports control the ball in theirs.

A lack of offense

Players in Kane’s position as top-six forwards are put there because of their ability to drive the offense and create scoring chances.

When these players go cold for an extended period, it lessens their team’s chances of winning.