As soon as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup Sunday night on the back of a garbage fluke of a goal from Patric Hornqvist, I knew it was only a matter of time before the made-in-Quebec P.K. hating roared back into action.
Sadly, I was right.
Social media was an ugly place to be Monday for people like me who are P.K. Subban fans and think that Marc Bergevin made a huge mistake shipping the Norris Trophy-winning defenceman to Nashville last year in return for Shea Weber.
On Sunday night, I tweeted to say the hating was about to begin and it elicited this response:
Right back at you in reverse. People like you turned us against Subban.
Then someone else responded to my original tweet about the hating, tweeting that the hating was “Music to my ears!”
Yet another Subban hater popped up to opine that “I trash Subban on here so much just to counter the fake (Habs) fans who sh*t on Weber and the rest of the organization.”
There was also no shortage of Subban bashing on Facebook.
Like Mike Herman, who posted this on top of a photo of Sidney Crosby with the Stanley Cup: “Thank Mr. Subban for this one. In that never-ending quest to be the centre of attention he poked and agitated a bear named Sid who dominated sending Smashville home in tears. His act will wear thin soon enough there (too).”
That, of course, was a reference to the trash talking between Subban and Crosby, who’d been in close quarters on the ice for much of the series. P.K. claimed Sid had told Subban he had bad breath and Subban responded that he’d taken his Listerine as usual that day. The anti-Subban narrative suggests he “poked the bear” and that Crosby suddenly came to life. Of course the problem is it’s not true. Crosby had a great playoff run from start to finish and ended up with 27 points in 24 games. He didn’t win the Conn Smythe just because he picked up in the last three games of the Final!
On TSN 690 Monday afternoon, host and former Habs player Chris Nilan and columnist and former Habs player Sergio Momesso were knocking Subban for making so much noise off-ice. And I don’t even need to watch L’Antichambre on RDS and Dave Morissette’s show on TVA Sports this week to know they’ll be kicking Subban in the head — for the very good reason that they’ve been consistently doing that ever since P.K. first donned a Habs sweater in 2010.
So why are the haters so full of hatred? Excellent question. For some reason, the folks who thought Bergevin was smart to trade Subban for Weber are incredibly intolerant of any discussion on the matter and it drove them crazy that thousands of Montrealers continued to be Subban fans even though he was playing in Tennessee. The Shea crowd was shouting almost from day one that the debate had to be closed, that we had to “get over it” and Bergevin, naturally enough, supported this discourse, quickly saying he would no longer be taking questions on the trade.
The pro-Shea/pro-Bergevin types keep saying that we are not “real” Canadiens fans because we still like Subban and were cheering for the Predators in the playoffs. It’s true that many of the Subban fans are indeed hyper critical of current Montreal Canadiens management. I confess. I may have launched one or two arrows in M. Bergevin’s direction.
But it only makes sense. If you think the trade was a huge misstep for Montreal, chances are you’re not thinking Bergevin is an ace GM. And that’s part of the roots of the hating. The anti-P.K. brigade don’t like the Subban love-in because it is something of a resistance movement against the Bergevin regime. Yes we wanted Subban to win the Cup in part to make it even more obvious that the Habs GM had made a big mistake. But that’s okay. We don’t need the Cup to prove that thesis.
With the exception of the Montreal media haters, there was widespread agreement in the hockey media elsewhere that Subban was having a monster playoff. He was on the ice against the top lines of Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim and Pittsburgh and with the exception of the game last Thursday, he mostly shut them right down. Predators coach Peter Laviolette was playing him more than any other Preds skaters most nights and he wasn’t doing that because P.K. had the best smile on the team. He was one of the best players in these playoffs.
So why the hatred? Partly it’s because to love Subban is to have issues with the way the Habs are run. But it’s bigger and uglier than that. Bergevin and former coach Michel Therrien constructed a narrative that day-in and day-out subtly and sometimes not so subtly insinuated Subban was a cancer in the room. It’s unprecedented for management to treat a star player like that.
And a large portion of the Habs fan base bought into that nasty storyline. And now they’re happy to kick him when he’s down. Classy.
And is it even uglier than that? Does race have something to do with the hatred? I hope not. But it’s lurking there in the background. I had a couple of friends who went down to see a Habs game in Boston during that epic Bruins series in 2014 and they heard cheap jerseys China a lot of racist comments outside the rink.
I mean the National Hockey League is a very white league and Subban is one of the few black stars, so it is an odd coincidence that he is one of the few players who’s booed in every rink he plays in. Was race part of the reason he was in a perpetual conflict with Canadiens management? I don’t really think so. I think it was a cultural clash between conservative managers who didn’t know how to deal with a 21st-century player with a big ego.