Call him Denzel
It’s comical watching Montrealers try to come to terms with a 26-year-old hockey player who is just trying to play his game and live life according to his play book.
I think it’s fair to say that, after three years in the city, P.K. Subban still provokes a lot of awkward emotions among not only hockey fans but also anyone who has access to news and information all because he is a Black guy.
It’s not that Montreal is incapable of dealing with a Black hockey player; there have been others who have worn the big CH before, and one currently playing a solid role for them. But none, so far, brings the carry-on luggage that star defenseman P.K. does to this trip in Montreal.
You see, it’s not only about his derring-do on the ice and his ability to light a fire under a game (in fact, he himself says that being a hockey player is such a little part of who he is as a person). It has always been a lot more since he began his NHL journey in this town, after he was drafted 43rd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 entry draft.
Four years after he hit the ice for his first game in the NHL against the Philadelphia Flyers, his name has never been far from the lips of hockey fans here and afar. (That game he announced himself by recording an assist for his first point in the league.)
Today, in the early stages of the 2015-16 season, although he has been in a little bit of a scoring drought, P.K. is still one of the highest-ranking defensemen in the league with almost 250 points. And off the ice his name continues to titillate people’s emotions.
Like it did, a few months ago on September 16, when out of the blue, he announced that he was donating $10 million over the next seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
It became the largest donation ever made by a Canadian athlete. It came less than a year after he signed a $72 million deal with the Caanadiens. In recognition, the hospital has named its atrium after Subban.
And in perspective, Canada has had its fair share of superstar multi million-dollar athletes in the NHL, but none had ever stepped up to the donation plate as Subban did, and the act should have put the young man in the highest esteem among his fellow players, his employers, the media, hockey fans, the NHL, and all the good people of Canada and beyond. But no!
Not only there wasn’t a peep of true glorification from those who matter most, worse than that was the free flow of racist bile that was unleashed by some of society’s bottom dwellers against Subban.
As a matter of fact, a day or two later, the Canadiens kind of threw water in his wine by naming Max Pacioretty the team captain, and Subban, who more than a few expected to have been given the honor, was named one of four associate assistant captains.
True to style, Subban moved forward. And with his customary flamboyance, ebullience and overwhelming skills on the ice, continues to keep most of the conversations focused on him.
On the ice, his value to the team is being marked by his contributions every night as he stands atop the heap with 20 assists of &&& goals scored thus far and being in the game for 62% of those goals.
Off the ice, by early December he was back in the national headlines with some obscure French advocacy group wringing their hands about the pronunciation of his name.
While silly people were engaging in stupid talk whether it should be “P.K.” or Pay-Kah … he was busy promoting a Christmas carol, trying to raise funds for sick children.
The dynamic hockey player and personality that’s causing all this stir was born in Toronto in 1989 to Caribbean immigrants, Karl from Jamaica and Maria from Montserrat.
He has four siblings, two sisters — Nastassia, Natasha, and two brothers, Jordan and Malcolm, both recently drafted in the NHL: Jordan a forward by the Vancouver Canucks, and Malcolm, a goalkeeper, by the Boston Bruins.
From reports, P. K. grew up in a solid family setting and earned his mettle as a hockey player. He came to Montreal with the right stuff, following standout careers in the Juniors with the Bellville Bulls and in the American Hockey League with the Canadiens farm team at the time, the Hamilton Bulldogs.
From that first game in February 2010, Montreal hockey fans got a taste of what was in store for them and it really didn’t take long for Subban to establish himself as a superstar in the league.
His first full season in 2011-12 he became the first Canadiens rookie to score a hat trick. He played 81 games and scored seven goals and 29 assists that year.
The next season, one would think the team would do what was necessary to make Subban happy and show him some real money. They didn’t, so he sat out a few games. He eventually signed a two-year deal for about $5.75 million and showed them who’s boss by winning the Norris Trophy as the Top Defenseman in the league, after accumulating 38 points in 42 games.
When that deal was done for the 2014 season, he was again forced into arbitration after asking for an $8.5 million contract, and the team offering $5.5 million.
They eventually signed at $72 over eight years.
So now that Montreal is stuck with him until 2022 the challenge will be how to deal with the full package that P.K Subban brings with him.
After four years it’s obvious that there’s not much middle ground, some love him and some can’t stand him, but it doesn’t look like anyone can change him.
With his flair, style and one of the deadliest slap shots in the game, P.K. Subban will continue to bring good hockey to fans. But he will also be bringing his inimitable style and will be in our faces for a long time.
The message to all who love him and also to the haters, in receiving all that he has to offer, just give him some respect in return.