Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/04/14 at 02:05 PM ET
By Tom Murray,
It was a night to remember for defenseman P.K. Subban last Thursday in Game 1 of the series between his Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. He was the best player on the ice for the entire game and he capped a brilliant performance by scoring his second goal of the evening in double overtime.
And that’s when P.K.’s night to remember became one to forget for the city of Boston where, it was determined by a social media company, over 17,000 tweets exploded soon after P.K.’s winning goal, every one of them featuring the simultaneous use of the terms Subban and the N-word.
The perpetrators of this garbage don’t even deserve the time and space it takes to identify them en masse for who and what they are—gutless, hate-spewing cretins who wrap themselves in the insidious cloak of anonymity that Twitter handles can provide.
The Bruins’ response was quick and appropriate, via a statement from team president Cam Neely, denouncing the “racist, classless” views and disassociating anyone in the Bruins organization from them. But it was P.K. himself who demonstrated, at only 24 years old, his skill on the ice is outweighed only by the maturity and grace he expressed on the topic, which he didn't address until after Saturday’s Bruin comeback victory in Game 2.
Telling a throng of reporters it was “the first time and probably the last time” he would discuss it, P.K. pressed on:
"The Boston Bruins are an Original Six franchise,” he said. “They have been around for a very long time, they are respected. It's completely unfair for anybody to point the finger at the organization or the fan base. They have passionate fans here, great fan base and since I've been in the league it's been awesome. I've come to Boston many times, my family has come here and it's been great. What people may say on Twitter or social media is not a reflection by any means of the league or the Boston Bruins. So whoever that is, they'll get dealt with, but it's completely separate from this league or the Boston Bruins organization."
He went on to say the focus should be on the “great hockey that was played two days ago,” and then made the most important and telling point:
“You know what the funny thing is? We get stronger as a league [when something like this happens]. You see how people come together and it’s great. And it’s not just about me. The NHL’s got tons of players from different backgrounds and places around the world. That’s what makes this league so special and that’s what makes sports so special. It brings everybody together.”
But here’s the irony of all ironies: That concept, of bringing everybody together in the wake of adversity or crisis, was on display in the very same city a scant 10 days earlier, when the eyes of the world were on the city as it proudly commemorated the year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.
And then comes this despicable display.
Not its proudest moment, for sure, but the sad truth about Boston is this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened here: When the Washington Capitals Joel Ward, another African Canadian, eliminated the Bruins from the 2012 playoffs with his overtime goal in Game 7, the haters slithered over to their computer screens and let loose with a torrent of deplorable tweets, prompting the Bruins to issue a disclaimer.
Of course, what makes all of this even more maddening and hard to comprehend are a few facts that fly in the face of Boston’s reputation as a place still grappling with its difficult racial history. To wit:
* When Willie O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier in 1957, it was with the Bruins. And today O’Ree heads the league’s Hockey Is For Everyone program, providing support and programs for youth hockey organizations across North America. (And undoubtedly will soon be reinforcing the message that despite what happened with P.K., people of color shouldn’t feel the game isn’t an option—either for them as fans, or their kids as players).
* One of the best and most effective players on the current Bruins team is another African Canadian and future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla.
* And here’s the kicker: P.K.’s kid brother Malcolm is the Bruins’ top goaltending prospect! He’s a first round pick in 2012 who played this past season for the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence. He will undoubtedly be with the big club sooner than later.
So what do we take away from all of this?
Nothing new, it’s sad to say. Racism is everywhere. Not just in hockey. And that’s not exactly a new headline. And every day each one of us is hopefully doing what we can to change that narrative.
But in the meantime, I’m enjoying every second P.K. Subban is on the ice. His skill is breathtaking, his charisma is infectious, his respect and reverence for the game beyond reproach. He is exactly what the NHL needs more of—today and for years to come.
Can’t wait to watch the kid play his next game.
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