Ottawa Senators v Montreal Canadiens - Game Five

In the lead up to PK Subban’s signing his massive 8-year, $72,000,000.00 contract with the Montreal Canadiens, I started talking to myself. [1]

I repeatedly told …ah…me that, if I were PK, I would not sign with the Habs.

It wasn’t entirely an internal conversation. I am pretty sure some others heard me spew that I would take the path to free agency and sign with a team (perhaps one based in the U.S.) that embraced my style and my being.

Subban obviously had a different view. He chose a profound and intense commitment to hockey’s most historic franchise and to the city of Montreal itself.

However, when his coach Michel Therrien recently threw him under a caravan of buses in the media for a so-called “selfish” play that resulted in a turnover and a loss, I started to channel my version of PK once again and imagined his saying (and sighing), “Why did I f*&$%^@ sign here??!!”[2]

Arguably, envisioning that kind of response from the team’s leading scorer (3 goals, 41 assists) is easy when you examine where he is in his career and how he got here. [3]

In the absence of the Canadiens’ most indispensable player, goalie Carey Price, PK still carries a 6 plus/minus[4] despite a high-skill, speed-infused style that naturally incorporates some defensive risk. Despite the team’s precipitous fall into the loser’s abyss, he stands to face the media’s music. When his track record of excellent play combined with market forces to give him multi-generational wealth, he shattered conventional pro athlete philanthropy with a $10,000,000.00 commitment to Montreal Children’s Hospital.[5]

As a prospect with the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls[6], his draft stock apparently dropped for purported deficits in his defensive game and what appears to be a twisted critique of his intangible assets, despite his undeniable leadership as the de-facto face of Canada’s gold medal junior national team at the 2008 World Championships.[7] Accordingly, he became a second-round pick rather than a first.

He had to ply his trade with the Habs’ AHL affiliate before being called up to the big club during the 2009-2010 playoff run, before his official rookie season in 2010-2011. He excelled and logged a veteran’s minutes and shifts against the league’s elite clubs and elite players in playoff series that represent the most colossal struggle for a championship among the big four North American professional sports.[8]

Still, establishment values within NHL culture and those who insist on conformity to “the Code” by all who enter the league’s Borg-like secret society of cult followers have reminded PK, and anyone else paying attention, that he is “the other”, an outlier whose contrarian confidence, dynamism and visage must be suppressed or else.

Through five (5) full seasons and half of the current one, Subban has been a target. He’s been variously discounted, criticized and/or villainized by players, coaches, media and others as, among other things,

  • “flashy”,
  • not knowing his place,
  • “selfish”,
  • disliked by teammates,
  • receiving reluctant praise,
  • untrustworthy,
  • being overrated,
  • having “a lot” to learn,
  • being …um…an orifice,
  • disrespecting opponents and the game,
  • a “stupid “ni*#er” who “doesn’t belong in hockey”, and
  • “hated”.[9]

You wouldn’t think they were talking about a 26 year-old Norris Trophy laureate who has repeatedly and effectively represented his country at the highest levels.

You wouldn’t think he was a player for whom the goalie playing behind him (i.e. Price) has genuine affection; a guy who hits, has a heavy shot, and is able to agitate without being gutless.

You wouldn’t think they were talking about the eldest son and first in a sibline of 3 professional hockey players; a good son of two teachers who raised their children the right way.

But Subban is the one.

"PK, We are Borg. Lower your shield and surrender your ship. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
“PK, We are Borg. Lower your shield and surrender. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

And unless he’s played his entire pro career with earplugs and a sleep mask, he fully appreciates what has been said about and to him.

Yet he signed with the “Bleu, blanc et rouge” and I doubt another sling or arrow from his current coach or anyone else will deter him from trying to play the game the right way, but in his way, for his legion of fans in Montreal.

Toronto fans should forget about their native son getting traded and coming home to help the Leafs. Coach Mike Babcock is not going anywhere. He coached the last Canadian men’s Olympic team and grudgingly had PK on the roster, barely gave him any ice time, and made it clear enough that he did not “trust” Subban on his blue line.

On the all the facts, you shouldn’t think PK Subban is that man who the cyborg hive minds in and around the NHL derisively characterize in often coded language.

But no matter what you think about him, what you know is, like a Jackie Robinson for the 21st century ice rink, he has fielded all this negativity and responded without one word out of place and with dignity.

If I were PK Subban, I hope I would be able to react the same way.

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Photo Sources: (1) http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1389693/images/o-PK-SUBBAN-facebook.jpg; (2) http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/memoryalpha/images/5/51/LocutusOfBorg2367.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130424025031&path-prefix=en

[1] http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/p-k-subbans-new-contract-a-win-lose-for-canadiens-gm-bergevin/

[2] http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/canadiens-coach-michel-therrien-not-backing-down-from-subban-comments/

[3]http://www.nhl.com/stats/player?reportType=season&report=skatersummary&season=20152016&gameType=2&sort=points&aggregate=0&pos=S

[4] Id.

[5] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/p-k-subban-montreal-canadiens-children-s-hospital-1.3230086

[6] The Bulls were purchased, moved to Hamilton, Ontario and are now the Hamilton Bulldogs: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/hamilton-bulldogs-sell-ahl-franchise-buy-the-ohl-belleville-bulls-1.2992840

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._K._Subban#International_play

[8] https://www.nhl.com/player/pk-subban-8474056?stats=gamelogs-p-nhl&season=20092010

[9] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/p-k-subban-targeted-by-racist-tweets-after-habs-win-1.2629759; http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/canadiens-coach-michel-therrien-not-backing-down-from-subban-comments/; http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/pk-subban-montreal-canadiens-sports-illustrated-most-hated/; http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/who-does-p-k-subban-think-he-is/; http://www.si.com/nhl/home-ice/2013/02/07/the-list-nhls-most-hated-players#; http://www.habseyesontheprize.com/2010/11/30/1845453/is-p-k-subban-a-victim-of-racism-in-the-nhl; http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36458-Flyers-Richards-blasts-cocky-Canadiens-defenceman-PK-Subban.html; http://www.yorktonnews.com/sports/local-sports/richard-sherman-pk-subban-victims-of-double-standard-for-blacks-1.1638402; http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Maple+Leafs+most+over+rated+Players+poll/10972183/story.html

 

 

 

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