Friday, January 21, 2011


Finally, someone had the stones to stand up and say the obvious about Habs rookie (and former Hamilton Bulldogs idol) P.K. Subban. I am not referring to this interesting if sometimes troubling article from Charlie Gillis of Macleans, which rightly tells NHL players (and especially talking heads) to man up and shut up.

I am referring to a comment by "Silver24" below the article, which nails with devastating accuracy the problem that I, too, am seeing. Subban is being targeted by the media and his fellow players in a way that I cannot recall any other player having been targeted in my time following the NHL - I have seen him attacked by TV talking heads for not fighting after delivering a devastating and completely legal mid-ice hipcheck. I have seen him called every name in the book twice by Don Cherry for having the audacity to talk to other players on the ice. I have seen national reporters tell outright and blatant lies about his conduct while playing in Hamilton.

Silver24 sees the same thing. And like me, he thinks it's perfectly obvious where it comes from. The criticisms of Subban for being a rookie without "respect", for being flamboyant, for not "knowing his place" don't get echoed around the league because he is young, promising and audacious. They don't get echoed because he is passionate, aggressive but inexperienced. They get echoed around the league because Subban is flamboyant, talented and black.

Especially black.

Silver24 says it well...

At first I never bought the racism card either. There's even a great sound bite of Subban himself completely discounting that possibility. But the longer this goes the less I like the taste it leaves, and the more I think about it the harder it gets to find another decent explanation... I can't ever remember any one player being on the receiving end of this much public criticism from his fellow players.

I almost choked when I heard Mike Richards spouting off about 'respect' that night. Maybe someone should put a microphone in front of David Booth (season over -, David Krejci (season over - or Ron Petrovicky (NHL career over - and see what they think of his brand of 'respect'...

...And by the way, I find your comparison of Subban and Avery to be pretty distasteful. The only thing Subban has ever done in the NHL is play a hard, aggressive style with a little more flair than most of the other guys in the league.
Gillis in the article is more skeptical:
you can forget the idea that Subban’s race is playing a part. Other black players, including Evander Kane and Wayne Simmonds, endure no such criticism. Those guys gladly play to type.
But the skepticism is obviously misplaced, isn't it? If you "play to type" as a modest and unassuming young man, sure, no one is going to hassle you. We've gone beyond that. Probably not until guys finally left Jarome Iginla alone after he proved he could whup any middleweight in the league and still smile his million-dollar smile afterward. But hockey is beyond that. OK, except for minor hockey. And obviously, Europe. But hockey is beyond that. Really!

Anyway, it's when a Subban plays his natural, effervescent, hard-hitting, fan-pleasing game (and Montreal fans have seen nothing yet - the Subban we had in Hamilton was an absolute folk hero to the regulars like few others have ever been, he's been playing within himself) - that is the line that I guess a black player can't cross in the NHL without being given the kibosh by his self-declared white betters.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about ribbing from the fans for being the "Pressbox King" or the like. That shit is funny, and entirely appropriate. I am not talking about Pang contrasting Mike Pietrangelo with Subban saying Pietrangeloi plays the "white way". That is an embarrassing slip of the tongue. I am talking about the whining and the veiled threats from opposition players and the hockey talking heads. I wouldn't expect opposing fans to like Subban - and many clearly don't, often for good reasons. Michael Farber's Sports Illustrated article shows a guy who is unquestionably cocky. Indeed, I would not necessarily object if you said that the kid quoted in that article is pretty douchey.

The article also says that Richards says P.K. stands for "punk kid" and that "mostly Subban harangues opponents with a playground you-can't-beat-me braggadocio, which has prompted one NHL assistant to observe, "It's almost like he's an athlete in a different sport.""

A different sport, eh? Subtle. Can I suggest 'hoopity-hoop'? Maybe 'negroball'? At least the coach had the sense to remain anonymous, or maybe Farber is taking pity on him. Clearly North American hockey, which has reacted with considerable ill grace these last two decades to the European invasion, is still finding its feet in terms of merging hockey culture with the wider culture. (Unsurprisingly, the other guys who get it in the ear on the "respect" nonsense are still, 35 years after Anders Hedberg, Europeans like Linus Omark, who was accused of "disrespect" by the pathetic Dan Ellis after he scored a wonder goal on his sorry ass to win a shootout in December).

For God's sake, look at the aforementioned Richards, who can't stop levelling guys with dirty head hits (see the links above from Silver24), and compare his work to Subban's preferred brand of legit, testicle-rattling destruction. Yet, after this clean hip check, noted daddy's boy Lil' Greggory Peggory Campbell does the "ooh, hold me back, you better hold me back, hold me back, I wanna get him, DUDE HOLD ME BACK" routine; and talking turnips Mike Milbury and P.J. Stock spent the rest of the game berating Subban for not fighting every Bruin on the ice. The words they used? "Respect" and "knowing your place".

NHL players ought to get their heads out of their butts on this. We see right through the "respect" nonsense. If you don't want to get embarrassed, don't embarrass yourself on the ice, and like Gillis says, keep the prissy stuff at home. Grow up and treat your fellow players like men. If you don't like him, say so. Don't pretend he has some deficit of character after he whups your butt and tells you about it. Because THAT, folks, is the real time-honored Canadian tradition.