PK Subban is held to a different standard than everyone else. And it's not OK.


It’s no secret PK Subban is a lightning rod for controversy in the hockey world. He attracts attention whether he intends to or not and criticism meets him at every corner. His every move is dissected and his personality has rubbed some people the wrong way.

As an elite player, the expectations for Subban are deservedly high but it seems like there is an extra set of rules for him and it comes down to racism. It isn’t quite in your face, but rather subtle. Subban is derided for the same things other players are applauded for and it just doesn’t make sense. Subban has been called cocky (amongst other things) throughout his career but I can’t help but compare Subban and Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty.

Subban and Doughty have similar traits to their games; they love to jump into the rush, have excellent offensive instincts and both love to go for the big hit. However, one gets a lot of love for it, the other gets derided for it. When you look off the ice, Doughty is outspoken but his words don’t incite nearly as  big a reaction as Subban’s. Throughout the playoffs, Doughty said he saw the fear in the eyes of the San Jose Sharks, specifically their captains after they won a game to make the series 3-1. It was also revealed that he said to his head coach Darryl Sutter he would win the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold in the same year which he went on to do.

Those quotes got a reaction for sure but it was nothing compared to before game seven of the Montreal-Boston series when Subban said “I can’t wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building. I can’t wait to take that all away from them.” Hardly a 1994 Mark Messier proclamation but still confident nonetheless. The reaction to this quote was less than stellar but it prompted the question, why can Doughty be so confidently outspoken and be accepted but Subban can’t?

No doubt, from the minute Subban stepped on NHL ice, he was ready to show he belonged. From his now infamous rushes up the ice to antagonizing the game’s biggest star in Sidney Crosby, Subban showed off a flair most rookies wouldn’t dare flash. But Subban was different. And because he is, he is treated differently than other players.

He is a minority, a black man in the NHL but where he differs is he is a superstar. Other black players such as Wayne Simmonds and Joel Ward are good but no one will confuse them for stars any time soon. Subban is breaking down the walls in the NHL and many don’t like it. His personality has him being compared to the stereotypical ones in the NFL and NBA, where some of the biggest personalities there are black men and flash and flamboyance is a little more accepted.

The comparison in itself is racist. It insinuates that Subban doesn’t belong in the NHL because he doesn’t fall into the cookie-cutter mould of keep your head down and do as you are told. Pundits have said Subban isn’t a team guy as he is guilty of trying to take over games by himself. His skill set and compete level make it easy to understand why he’ll go for a solo effort, especially since he plays on a team with few game breakers. In addition, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a player who loves wearing the Habs jersey as much as Subban.

He has had his moments for sure such as slewfoots on other players, bad penalties and chirping but Subban is maturing as some of the stuff like slewfoots has decreased dramatically. Somehow it is not okay for him to play with emotion and it is too bad some people feel this way.

When did it become taboo to show your emotions when playing sports, something that is supposed to be fun? Seeing players not smile after goals is disheartening. Many times players celebrate to express their own excitement, not embarrass the other team as some think.

On the ice, Subban is a special player, one of the few game changers at the defense position and his presence puts butts in seats and brings them out when he is off to the races with a solo effort. Off the ice, he has shown to be a model citizen. He is seen at countless charity events with a smile on his face and he always seems willing to oblige to fans’ requests for pictures and autographs. And there are no stories of hard partying, drugs or criminal activity.

Subban’s presence could very well open the doors for other minorities to play hockey. Enrolment in hockey is decreasing rapidly and the sport should be doing everything it can to promote the game as a viable option for everyone. Casting Subban as a villain just makes the Old Boys Club more apparent to fans. Not everyone will be a fan of Subban, but holding him to a different standard than everyone else just isn’t right.


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Main Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images


  1. This is exactly what I have been saying all along! People who continue to ridicule Subban are those who old boys idealogies run deep. They may not even realize their PREJUDICES in their expressions or are just to ignorant to comprehend. I know not everyone is going to have a lovein for everyone but this type of ridiculing is beyond the norm. Especially making fun of ones racial heritage and etc. A very sad commentary on our society here in the 21st century!!!
    PS: Publish my email if you like!

  2. I feel the precise same way. Sadly, the media tends to be like that. Example from the NFL: Last year, Tom Brady was screaming at the refs after they lost to the Panthers on some prime time game. The media mostly defended him, calling him “passionate and competitive”. I think we all know what they’d be saying if Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick or RG3 did the same thing. Racism isn’t as bad as it used to be, but it’s still prevalent and sadly probably always will be.

  3. doughty said those comments after the fact…no?

    what about iggy?

    btw…I agree with your conclusion but not your evidence

  4. Racism and jingoism are a solid fixture in Canadian hockey at all levels. Even Paul Coffey was banned for a couple of games when coaching his kid’s MTHL (?) hockey team a few months ago because he made a racist slur at the opposing coach. Canadians are the biggest closet racists. They all pretend that they are much more evolved than their American counterparts but deep down there is an ugly vein of racism because this country is petty-minded and largely irrelevant in the world and the locals who have been sapping the social safety net for generations resent having to watch people of colour get educated and work hard and achieve financial success while they spin their wheels waiting for union hand-outs and welfare so they can watch hockey on TV and swill beer. Subban will be laughing all the way to the bank. He’d be better off playing in Chicago or New York or LA where they love their black athletes because of the success of their NFL and NBA teams.

  5. Yes racism – same thing with Sidney Crosby. Crosby gets picked on for every single perceived flaw, solely because he’s an African American who happens to be a superstar.

    And while we’re at it – how about the racism towards another superstar African America – Zdeno Chara. Chara can’t even touch a puck without being booed. That wouldn’t happen if he were a white athlete.

    I could go on and on, but I’ll just mention one more. Rick Nash. Would the NBC broadcasters have been calling him racist code names like lazy and not bringing full effort if he were white? Doubtful

    Thank you for this enlightened article – you’re really helping people look past skin color and treat all races as equal, you should be very proud of yourself

  6. Well Bob. When Pang says Subban needs to play the white way you know the issue exists even if it is mroe sutle.

    It is called unconscious bias.

    We (society) have come a long way but still much more work to get done.

  7. Lol, it’s not racism, I am black and can’t stand the guy, as a hockey player. I don’t know him personally but he rubs people the wrong way because of his personality, not his colour. I do think he is a great hockey player, but he is one of those players people love to hate, happens all the time and makes the game more fun.

    Enough with the racism crap!


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