One of the biggest stories of the NHL offseason, the next contract for P.K. Subban, concluded on Saturday. Subban signed an eight year deal worth $72 million making him the highest paid defenseman in NHL history. The Subban signing is now, right or wrong, the transaction that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin will be judged by. But lets look at the dual legacies that were set on Saturday.
The Canadians are the oldest and most successful team in NHL history. Since their inception in 1909 they have won 24 Stanley Cups. That is an average of a championship every four to five years. But the last championship was in 1993. This year the Canadians and Subban were within two games of playing for the Stanley Cup. Subban was the face of the playoff run and will now be the face of the Canadians into the next decade.
If the next generation of fans have first hand accounts of seeing the glory of the Canadians they will tell the tale of P.K. Subban leading the Canadiens. A defenseman with a rocket shot restoring the glory of the league’s oldest team while reclaiming the Cup that many wish to see raised again under the red and white flag.
The other legacy, that many will try to ignore, is that the long term face of a premier NHL franchise is black. Some will decry this as race baiting but let’s be honest, there are teams that have never had a black player suit up for them in an NHL game. There is an article on Wikipedia that lists all of the “players of black African descent” who have played in the NHL…and it’s not that long an article. Go read it here. It won’t take long. Do I believe that this has anything to do with a deep seated racism in hockey or it’s fans? No, but I do think we need to celebrate players like Subban and make sure he is a face of the league up there with Crosby and Ovechkin.
Some will respond with, “It’s racist to promote the game with him just because he is black.” It isn’t racist, it’s smart. Kids create an image from a very young age projecting themselves into roles. At the Blue Jacket’s developmental camp my three year old daughter asked “Daddy, are there girls in hockey?” This is a moment where a role could be assigned in her mind forever. I said “Yes, girls play hockey.” This winter we will be going to see an Ohio State women’s hockey game. The last thing I want my daughter thinking is that she can’t play a sport that she enjoys watching, and if I never show her women playing then I am complicit in cementing that into her mind. Seeing P.K. Subban on nationally televised games and advertising can put it in kids’ heads early that hockey is a sport for everyone. That is a legacy worth celebrating.