The alarm has been sounding for the past several years, but PK Subban hasn’t been listening. He was too deeply engrossed in his thing: playing hockey and living life and being exceptional on both ends.
But on June 27th he got his wakeup call, one that he couldn’t ignore. That’s when Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager announced what many described as one of the biggest trades in the history of the NHL: Subban to the Nashville Predators for that team’s captain, Shea Weber.
Fans were dazed. They didn’t just trade Subban, they traded him ugly and ingloriously: to a team hardly anyone had ever seen play and for a player who seems to be just above average.
Immediately fans, pundits and all the smart people in and around hockey were trying to make sense of the dastardly act on the part of the Canadiens by rolling out the statistics and the intangibles trying to compare the two players… chalk and cheese of course, or more appropriately, ebony and chalk.
On the surface it was difficult to make sense of the trade. The team had no seemingly good reason to trade Subban who, as one of the top offensive defensemen in the league, was giving more than expected in terms of productivity, enthusiasm and leadership on the ice.
Since he entered the league in 2010, his numbers have been extraordinary, book-marked by an impressive 63 goals and 278 points in 434 games. He had 50 points in two straight seasons, scored 10 or more goals four times in his career, accumulated 40 or more assists over the past three seasons, and has consistently played more than 25 minutes in every game. He won the Norris Trophy in the 2012-13 season and was a finalist a year later, and played in two All-Star Games.
All that aside, on ice the guy has been as spectacular to watch as a Caribbean woman caught in the unyielding rhythms of a good soca or reggae song. Because of him, many who normally couldn’t give a flying shyte about hockey were walking around talking about “nos habitants, nos glorieux,” proclaiming their love for the Canadiens.
Off the ice there was no stopping Subban either, as he embedded himself in the Montreal community, getting involved in all types of activities and charities, especially if it had to do with kids.
Then came the punctuation mark last year when he made the largest donation, I think in the history of professional sports, by pledging $10 million to the Children’s Hospital.
But nothing he does could earn Subban the praise and acceptance he so richly deserves in a sport where his kind will never, ever, ever be fully accepted, especially in a city like Montreal where all the institutions, public and private, fundamentally exclude people like him.
So his wake-up call was coming. But as indicated, the alarm was sounding from way back.
For all his exceptionalism on and off the ice, Subban was a crow in the throats of the Canadiens administration and coaches.
It seems as if head coach Michel Therrien couldn’t stand him, always looking as if wanted to go to the bathroom when talking to or about Subban.
And according to all the smart people, he was continuously trying to cramp Subban‘s style of play under the guise of making him more ‘conservative’.
When Subban and his boy, Carey Price, rocked their “low-five celebrations” after a winning game it was Subban the administration picked on… that he was too flamboyant… not Price.
Even after winning the Norris Trophy, it almost killed the big wigs in hockey in this country to include him on Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
(And in an act of incredible disrespect and bias, he has been left off the team for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.)
He was also the object of disdain from opposing players and fans of opposing teams, and booed or jeered routinely around the league.
One player went as far as trying to heap disrepute on Subban saying that he had to “earn the respect of other players.”
Those were the alarms ringing.
The wake-up call is sadly what’s reserved exclusively for people like Subban. No white player will ever experience the wake-up call. Sure, some will be treated unfairly and disrespected and scorned, but never will they know about the wake-up call.
That call is reserved for Blacks only. And it comes when your Blackness has become a problem. Such is racism.
“Allo P.K., comment ca va?”