If you thought that Evander Kane might opt to lay low this season in Winnipeg, letting his strong play on the ice speak for him and, hopefully, allowing his differences with the Winnipeg media slowly melt away, well, you thought wrong.
Kane showed up for practice Friday morning with a message shaved into his head:
The back of Kane's head reads "YMCMB". For those of you that aren't up on your hip hop acronyms, that stands for "Young Money Cash Money Billionaires."
YCMCB is the group of hip hop artists signed to Young Money, an imprint of Cash Money Records. The roster includes names like Drake, Li'l Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and a bunch of other hip hop acts.
Only Kane can say why, exactly, he would shave this message into the back of his head. (Maybe he's about to appear on a mixtape!) But here's an educated guess:
It probably goes without saying that, while Kane has no history of spitting mad rhymes, he does share a few notable traits with the label's artists: like YMCMB, he's young, black, and rich.
You'll recall that Kane recently got himself into some hot water for failing to keep the "rich" part on the down-low. Kane sent the Winnipeg media into a frenzy during the lockout when he tweeted a photo in which he was using a stack of hundreds as a phone. It was a joke, a reference to a conversation between 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather that also incorporated phones made of money-stacks, but it was a joke that sailed over the heads of the hockey community.
(For reasons I assume you can imagine, much of the hockey community doesn't keep up on 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather. Kane was criticized, effectively, for bewildering them.)
"Earth to Evander", the subheadline read on Paul Friesen's column about it at the Winnipeg Sun, "Regular Joes don't get your joke."
Perhaps. But Kane doesn't seem to care. Regular Joes may not get the joke, but Kane's not exactly a regular Joe, especially in Winnipeg. Regular Joes don't get his paycheque either.
Kane recently signed a $31.5-million deal with the Jets, and he doesn't seem all that interested in pretending he didn't. In effect, considering the context and the recent history, Kane's haircut could be seen as a subtle way to say this:
Some have speculated that Winnipeg's issue with Kane is a race thing. I'd partially agree. But I don't think it's race as much as is culture.
And not "white" culture versus "black" culture, per se, but hockey culture versus hip hop culture. (There is, of course, some obvious crossover there. But not always.)
Hockey culture calls on players to be humble and self-effacing. "Regular Joes", as it were. But Kane appears, clearly, to align a little more closely with hip hop culture, its emphasis on swagger over humility, and occasionally, a little bit of wealth-flaunting. You can criticize that all you want. But occasionally, as the hockey world expands, we're going to encounter more players that don't fit the hockey culture mould. We'd do well to stop rushing to judge them and accuse them of being out of touch when our inability to process them only exposes how out of touch some of us are. It's time start adjusting to the possibility that some players are, as Kane himself said in the money phone tweet, "different".
In the meantime, Kane will continue to clash with the city of Winnipieg. I don't think this is going to go over well in Winnipeg. But Kane knew that when he did it.
We look forward to reading tomorrow's Winnipeg Sun.