As season nears, Sharks keep focus away from Evander Kane

By Curtis Pashelka

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When it came time for Kevin Labanc to provide proof that he had been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Sharks winger simply showed his CDC vaccination card to one of the team’s trainers and was on his way.

“There’s not much more to it than that,” Labanc said Wednesday.

The process is proving to be not as effortless for Sharks forward Evander Kane, who is facing two investigations by the NHL, including one for reportedly using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

Using or making a fake vaccine card is illegal in both the United States and Canada, and the NHL could issue sanctions against Kane if the investigation determines that he submitted a counterfeit card.

The NHL’s other investigation involves accusations of physical and sexual abuse raised by his wife in a recent court filing.

The Sharks must finalize their 23-man roster by Monday at 2 p.m. (PT), and there’s been no indication about how they will proceed with Kane, who remains on the team’s training camp roster.

For now, it appears the Sharks are preparing as if they’ll start the regular season in 10 days without Kane, who is staying away from training camp. The Sharks play their final regular-season game Saturday at home against the Vegas Golden Knights, then open the regular season on Oct. 16 at home against the Winnipeg Jets.

“We haven’t talked about that,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said Wednesday. “The guys here, that’s my main focus. (We’ve) got to wait until the investigation’s done, then I’ll have to sit, and obviously, we’ll have to talk and make some decisions.

“But as of right now, to be honest with you, there’s too much else going and too many other important things going on right now to have to focus on that.”

The NHL, like other pro leagues, did not require its players to receive the coronavirus vaccine. However, unvaccinated players face severe restrictions, including not being able to cross the border from the United States into Canada without a lengthy quarantine.

Teams can also suspend unvaccinated players without pay for each day they are unable to participate in hockey activities. The Sharks are scheduled to play nine games in Canada this season, including three later this month in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.

“(The team) just makes sure that you got it and then you’re good to go,” Labanc said, “and then you can go travel and all that kind of stuff.”

According to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, “established violations of, and/or lack of compliance with, the COVID-19 Protocol will result in significant Club and individual sanctions, including potential forfeiture of games, fines and reimbursements of expenses, loss of draft choices, and/or ineligibility for participation in training activities.”

In an email to this news organization, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday that in general, each team is responsible for managing information about each player’s vaccination status. However, in a subsequent email, Daly clarified that a team would likely face not face any punishment if a player violated league protocols without the knowledge or consent of the club.

Should Kane have to miss time at the start of the regular season, the Sharks will have to find a way to replace his production. Kane led the Sharks with 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games last season and although the team likes the additions they’ve made, not one of those players has the scoring pedigree of Kane.

Boughner said he hopes the Sharks can get some increased production from the bottom half of their lineup and is hopeful their power play can be better than it was last season.

“I think it’s going to have to be done by committee, no doubt,” Boughner said.

For now, while the team awaits the results of the investigations into Kane. Boughner feels camp has gone fairly smoothly so far.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I think it’s the best vibe I’ve seen in the last couple of years here,” Boughner said. “Guys, I just think they feel good about camp. I think they feel that we’re a deeper team and they’re looking forward to this season.”

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