Being a fan of the Boston Bruins only requires two things: loving the black and gold and hating the Montreal Canadiens. Anything less than pure loathing for the Les Habitants calls into question your love for the Bruins. That’s just the way it is—and that’s the way it should be. And for the last few seasons, no Montreal player has epitomized and been the focus of that hatred more than P.K. Subban.
Their young, brash, embellishing, diving, whiny, faux-tough, temper tantrum-throwing defenseman encompassed everything we despise about the Montreal Canadiens, especially because he’s insanely skilled and has pretty much owned our ass the entire time he’s been in the league.
For every time he flopped like he was shot by an imaginary sniper there has been a backbreaking goal, and for every absurd complaint to the refs there has been an end-to-end rush that turned the tide of the game. At times P.K. Subban is the biggest baby on the ice, and for the rest of it he is a wholly unique, dynamic, game changer.
You can see why we’ve hated him so much.
And now he is gone from the division, sent off to Nashville in a power struggle with a coach that gets all of the same Boston hate without any of the respect. No more laser beam goals from the point on a power play they only got because P.K. collapsed when someone breathed on him; no more dread as he gets up a full head of steam in his own zone and takes off for our net; no more being terrified of him knocking us out of yet another playoff series.
But man, I’m going to miss him.
Because for everything I hate about him on the ice, off the ice I think he’s one of the best guys in hockey. He carries himself with a grace and class few athletes in sports can match. Last year he announced a massive 10 million dollar donation to a Montreal children’s hospital, and in every interview he gives, he speaks with humility that honors the game instead of himself. Plus, he plays with a joy that feels like a kid lacing up for a Saturday morning skate on the frozen pond, an enthusiasm that cuts through the normal sports bullshit and cynicism (though that damn smile quickly turns infuriating when you’re losing to him).
However, his off-ice actions mean a great deal to me personally, because as a Bruins fan he publicly went to bat for my team when the rest of the world wanted him to bury us.
In 2014, the Bruins were the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and get back to the Cup Final, but, of freakin’ course we ran into our worst match-up in the second round—the less skilled Canadians—who had our number that whole year (because that’s how mortal enemies work).
P.K. Subban won Game 1 in overtime with a shot so hard it traveled through time. Afterwards, a small number of “fans” took to Twitter (from all over the country, many not even Bruins fans) and used exactly the type of language you’d fear some would use after an African American player scored a big game winning goal. And even though that happens online every day, for any event, especially sporting events, it blew up into this huge story because of Boston’s shameful past.
It was a lazy story, unfair and without context, but there it was, setting people up to take a shot at my hometown.
Except P.K. Subban: the guy we booed every time he touched the puck in Boston, the guy we hated with every fiber in our fandom, wouldn’t allow it. Here’s what he said:
“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.”
That’s the guy the Montreal Canadiens just gave away. A just-entering-his-prime, supremely skilled defenseman who loves the city and fans of Montreal, and just so happens to be one of the best ambassadors the game has off the ice.
We are celebrating this trade in Boston—never a good sign when your rivals are glad you moved a player, so suck it Montreal—because we hated everything P.K. Subban did in a Canadiens jersey, but rivalries are are more fun with worthy foes (I’ll always miss George Steinbrenner, Red Sox/Yankees games are borefests now), and the Habs just moved the guy we hated the most, making this feud a lot less fun.
So a part of me will miss P.K. Subban the Enemy on the ice, but I will miss him more because of who he is off of it. Because when it comes to the man himself, you don’t need to embellish what makes him great.
What do you think of the Canadiens trade of P.K. Subban? Tell us in the comments below.