He’s getting paid, but in some minds and eyes P.K. Subban is too colourful for the league
All P.K. Subban was doing a few weeks ago out in Denver, Colorado, was, as some people say, “playing his arse off”— as he always does—for his team, les Canadiens de Montréal.
That night, with the game tied 2-2 and about 2:30 minutes to play in the third period, then tragedy…
Given the sad state of the Montreal Canadians since late last year, the team needs more than fans religiously going to the Bell Centre. Once in their places, they should not only sing the national anthem, but also summon the help of the team’s many departed Saints by praying…
Here’s why, after a rocket 9-0 run to start the season, les Canadians hit a rough patch on the ice and have been in an unfamiliar and historic downward spiral, losing more than winning…
Exacerbating the team’s ‘malaise’ was the loss of a key component of the team and its winning ways, goaltender Carey Price. He’s surely out for the rest of the season with, as sportscasters say, “a lower body injury.”
So the team has been hobbling along with back-up goaltenders, losing a lot (interspersed with a win here and there). Things are surely not looking good for post-season hockey in Montreal. According to those who know, les Canadiens in the playoffs is, at best, a long shot.
That reality in mind, the players, professionals all, have not given up all hope (although some may have mentally resigned themselves to that reality). Nevertheless, they keep on playing…
So that night out in Colorado, the young man who wears the Canadians jersey (with the big CH logo) with unquestionable hubris, and always wants to do everything to help the team win, was carrying the puck in the offensive zone when bad luck struck: P.K. Subban lost his balance—and the puck—and off went the Colorado Avalanche players with the puck to score a 3-2 victory.
All hell broke loose in Montreal ‘hockeydom’. And P.K. Subban became a goat, for days… Given the slump the team has been in since that nine-game run that had everybody talking “Stanley Cup”, the young defenseman became a target; hell his name was even brought up in “trade” conversations on different sports shows.
I didn’t watch the game, but according to those who did the coach shot Subban one of those “if-looks-could-kill gazes,” reviving what many hockey analysts and fans alike contend has been an ongoing ambivalent relationship between Therrien and les Canadiens’ “star defenseman.” Which began when the coach was a hockey analyst on a French TV network—while awaiting a call to coach another NHL team—and P.K. was a rookie with les Canadiens.
Apparently, Michel Therrien was regularly and mercilessly critical of P.K. Subban. He didn’t like his style… his “flamboyance” and occasional “rookie mistakes.” Worse than that, he apparently didn’t think the young, Black rookie defenseman had what it takes to make it in the pros…
And then, as [good/bad] luck would have it, Therrien signed a contract—affording a second go-around—to coach les Canadiens; he was now in position to rein in (tame… break) the young Black buck, Subban, was probably perceived as, and make a real hockey player out of him. I guess in Coach Therrien’s mind P.K.’s flashy style was too much, untenable.
Apparently, there were times when he had to call out P.K. on the bench for making one of those proverbial “rookie mistakes”, indeed benching him for long stretches, in hockey parlance “nailing him to the bench,” making him “a healthy scratch,” “putting him in the press box,” etc. He wanted P.K.’s flamboyance, God forbid, his talent, squashed. He probably wanted another young, bland hopeful who played the game the ‘traditional, normal’ way.
In a phrase, “The hell with all your enthusiasm, flash on ice… Hockey is not the ice follies.”
Something had to give, vis-à-vis the Therrien-Subban professional relationship; they had to find a way to get along. Better stated, the new coach had to find a way to get to know (and work with) the young, Black buck, purge his stereotypes… An eight-year, $72 million contract determined that.
Inevitable jealousy and whispers be damned, the young and lone Black man in the Montreal Canadians fold was heralding “change” in the organization. He was/is one of the new and growing number of Black faces in hockey.
[Black people’s] interest in sports was not, and has never been, limited to basketball and football; but institutional racism kept them out. Google Herb Carnegie! A world of ‘racially motivated’ practices vis-à-vis Black hockey aspirants going back decades will open up to you.
Perhaps Therrien would’ve (stereotypically) preferred Subban to be a pugilist on ice, the primary role a handful of Black players, i.e., Donald Brashear, Peter Worrell, Georges Laraque and a few others who have suited up for les Canadiens years ago have had.
So it was an unusual situation for the organization to have not just another player, but a Black one with skills and so-called “star” potential in the hockey world. Therrien couldn’t appreciate (or simply failed to recognize) P.K. Subban’s incipient hockey skills. This one was not an Adonis Stevenson, a Jean Pascal, or even an Otis Grant in his heyday; this was a bona fide hockey talent, dubbed “superstar” by hockey minds…
His boyhood dream and wish of one day being drafted by, and playing for, les Canadiens had come true. The rest is history… as we watch P.K. Subban continue to evolve/develop into one of the ‘best’ in hockey, as well as the first Black star player his club ever had. Some call him “super star.”
Herb Carnegie and others were never given the ‘opportunity’ to showcase in the NHL; P.K. Subban has. His prowess is evidence of what former P.M. Jean Chretien once said, “A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”
He may be Black, but just like his other teammates, (including the other Black guy on the team, Devante Smith-Pelly who was just traded, so it’s back to the quota of “one”), in hockey parlance P.K also bleeds “bleu, blanc, rouge” when he gets high-sticked in the mouth, the nose, wherever…
And, to use one of his coach’s favourite clichés, no one can ever question Subban’s “work ethic.”
As les Canadiens continued to run out the season, that P.K. Subban miscue gave hockey analysts/sportscasters and disgruntled fans someone to blame that night; they figure that loss further fuelled the team’s downward spiral out of playoff contention.
The phone lines were burning: “blame Subban, trade him, he’s a source of contention, he’s arrogant, selfish, ‘his individualistic play’, like a cancer, trade him…” The conversation went on…
Never rule out the reality of an undercurrent of racist venom-spitting by a certain constituency towards P.K. Subban. But he does have thousands of supporters… more than detractors.
One of his of fans wrote, “It is necessary to keep P.K. I like his personality, even if he is very extroverted. We need that in Montreal… his qualities, his talent; that’s very difficult to replace. Errors are a part of the game… And when you’re on the ice for 30 minutes that’s going to happen…”
Actually, in the business of hockey, P.K. Subban could command, and get, bigger numbers. But he loves Montreal, and the team.
In response to the 3-2 loss and resulting brouhaha and criticisms, P.K. Subban said, to his detractors: “I always play my best when people want to question my character and tear me apart…”
After all it’s a team sport, and each player has to be responsible. It makes no difference if a player is making one million or nine million dollars a year.
In the meantime, P.K. Subban’s 20-30 hard minutes per game notwithstanding, les Canadiens de Montreal continue to skate and lose their way out of a playoff position.