SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Speaking publicly for the first time since he became the subject of a sexual assault investigation, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said Thursday he has done nothing wrong and expects to be exonerated.
Kane is accused of assaulting a woman in her 20s in August at his offseason home outside Buffalo, New York, a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because police have not revealed details of the case.
Kane has not been charged, but the investigation has shadowed the Stanley Cup champions for weeks as they prepare for a season that begins at home on Oct. 7.
"I cannot apologize enough for the distraction this has caused my family, teammates, this incredible organization and, of course, our fans," said Kane, who was joined at a table by Blackhawks President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville. "While I have too much respect for the legal process to comment on an ongoing matter, I am confident once all the facts are brought to light I will be absolved of having done (anything) wrong."
Appearing calm and poised, Kane then deflected several questions that got anywhere close to the ongoing investigation. Asked about the decision to join the team for training camp, possible reaction from disappointed fans and whether he plans to stop drinking, the answer was mostly the same.
"I know you guys have a lot of questions," Kane said at one point. "I'd love to answer the questions. I'd love to answer them. I'd love to get in front of them and face them. This just isn't the right time to do it with my respect, the Blackhawks' respect for the legal process and what's going on, I really can't comment about that right now."
Kane's flashy skills and postseason success have made one of the NHL's most recognizable stars, but he also has generated his share of negative headlines over the years. He was arrested after an altercation with a cab driver in Buffalo in the summer of 2009. A few years later, photos posted on the Internet showed him partying in Madison, Wisconsin.
The decision to allow him to report to training camp was met with some pointed criticism for a franchise long regarded as one of the smartest organizations in sports.
"We recognize that Patrick Kane is dealing with a very serious situation," McDonough said. "Based on our discussions with his legal representatives who are very close to this matter, we have decided to have Patrick join us for training camp here at the University of Notre Dame."
Asked if the team had talked to law enforcement or the accuser's attorney, McDonough said he didn't know who else they had contacted.
"I would imagine it's been thorough and comprehensive. But I do know we were in touch with them," he said, referring to Kane's representatives.
A message was left Thursday seeking comment from Erie County district attorney Frank Sedita.
Kane, who turns 27 in November, was playing at an MVP-caliber level last season before breaking his collarbone in February. But the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft returned in time for the playoffs, helping the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons.
Kane's day with the Stanley Cup was Aug. 8, but he called off a public display of the iconic trophy because of the investigation and instead spent the day with his family and friends.
"I will say this hasn't been an easy situation for any of us to deal with," McDonough said. "It's been a challenging summer. This has weighed on all of us. We're doing the best we can within the framework of what we can talk about today."
It was just 15 months ago when McDonough joined Kane and captain Jonathan Toews for a news conference announcing twin $84 million, eight-year contract extensions for the high-scoring forwards. The contracts kick in this year, contributing to a salary cap crunch for Chicago that led to the departure of several key veterans over the summer.
Asked if Kane had apologized to the team and what he had said, Toews quickly tried to shift the focus back on the ice.
"Of course, to a certain degree, nobody wanted this, but again, we don't want to go into those details right now, and I'm sure at a later date some questions like that, other details will surface and they'll be dealt with at another time," said Toews, flanked by alternate captains Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. "Right now, the three of us are still going to focus on hockey, focus on those questions that are relevant to us and our team right now."