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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