P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators is a polarizing figure in hockey to say the very least. You can’t bring his name up to any hockey fan, or ask for thoughts on the man without getting some sort of elevated reaction.
The man always seems to be at the center of everything no matter where he is or what exactly is going on.
Consider in just these playoffs – which is barely under a month old:
- He sucker punched Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and then the next day stated he’d “do it again” if given the chance.
- Became public enemy #1 in Denver with those comments.
- He was named a finalist for the Norris Trophy which is awarded “to the defenceman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
- Was public enemy #1 in Winnipeg really before the series even started and was the talk of Jets social media for days leading up to game one of the Jets / Predators series.
- A series of “chippy” plays against Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine did nothing to relieve that feeling among Jets fans.
- He was named a finalist for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
- With boos raining down upon him at every touch of the puck, he scored the eventual game winner in game four off a power play slap-shot that nearly turned himself inside out.
- He’s “guaranteed” a Predators win in game six…
— PenaltyBoxRadio (@PenaltyBoxRadio) May 6, 2018
For what its worth, he also said something very similar last season before game three of the Predators / Penguins Cup Final and the Preds did in fact win that game.
At the very least he hasn’t licked anyone yet.
For a man who’s credo is “Skate Past The Noise” (which is a wonderful documentary worthy of your viewing), he sure creates a lot of it by his own accord, and for very good reason. He thrives on it. Of course the cheers and adulation he receives is easy, everyone loves that. But it’s the boos and jeers he receives from fans on the road that seem to fuel him to even greater heights which in turn makes him one of the most – if not the most – compelling player to watch in all of hockey.
One moment he’s sucker punching Nate MacKinnon, the next, he’s hyping the man for the Hart Trophy.
One moment it’s an awful high sticking penalty that ultimately costs his team a game three loss after a Blake Wheeler power play goal, the next, he’s letting out the most guttural of defiant screams in a silenced Bell MTS Place after blasting a puck past Connor Hellebuyck to earn a game four win.
His antics on the ice are a sharp contrast to his actions off it where he is well spoken, a champion of worthy charitable causes, and by all accounts a humble man simply enjoying the sport he has loved as a child even if that sport at times has not loved him back.
I’d argue hockey desperately needs more players like him. It needs more personality like he has. Of course, it’s that personality – and as much as many want to deny it, his race – that stands out in a Caucasian based and dominated sport where the most admirable traits of any player is “put your head down, be humble, be about the team and not yourself, and don’t say anything to stir the pot” which makes P.K. a target of vitriol on a nightly basis. Between his displays of overly dramatic gesturing to officials to his chippy, bordering on dirty play from time to time, he stands out even more and fans can’t help but react.
It’s been suggested on the eve of game six in Winnipeg that Jets fans break the cycle and give P.K the “silent treatment” or at the very least, react to him no different than they would a Scott Hartnell or a Kevin Fiala. The argument being that if it’s attention that he feeds off of, then it’s best not to give it to him, lest he strike another game winning dagger into the hearts of Jets fans and players alike.
But Winnipeg fans won’t be able to help themselves. As a collective group, they might not even try at this point. The mold has already been set on both sides.
P.K. is who he is and will play the same agitating game with the goal of helping his team obtain victory but will irritate fans and opponents alike to no end. He could possibly cost his team a game and it’s season or he could also possibly be the driving force behind a victory. Regardless of what fans do at this point, P.K. one way or another will have an impact on Monday’s game.
And despite how “the optics” look (do not fool yourself, a crowd of predominantly Caucasian fans dressed in white, booing a black hockey player simply does not have a good look to it even if there was truly zero intention by anyone in the mob to jeer him based on the color of his skin) and regardless of what P.K. does on the ice, fans will serenade him with disdain. He’s established his reputation within the game for better or for worse.
No matter who you talk to, Subban elicits reactions both good and bad. Monday night will be one more chapter in a growing book on the legend of P.K.