The Habs are at a disadvantage in some ways by having possibly the most obsessed fanbase in the league. Yeah the string of sell-outs is good, but when moments like what happened between PK Subban and David Desharnais make national headlines, we get a perfect example at how much tougher things can be when you play for the CH. If you haven’t seen the clip, this is it in its entirety. Subban and Desharnais had a little tussle at practice following some hard competition by both players. Both players took exception to the other’s physicality, and in the end they had words. No punches thrown. No hard feelings. IN the clip you can see them explaining their frustrations and then go their separate ways. I certainly never played hockey at the level of these two young players but I can tell you that this type of altercation could probably happen at every hard practice I ever attended. I wouldn’t even bring this up myself, but I get the sense that people see the headline at TSN “Canadiens’ Subban involved in another scuffle at practice” and they assume that PK Subban has a bad attitude, or is a bad teammate.
The fact is – this thing only makes headlines because unlike most of the league, the Canadiens practice in front of a capacity-filled arena, with an army of media covering their every move. Watch the video and I guarantee you see two players competing VERY hard in practice. Its exactly what I want to see from two players who will be critical to the Habs success going forward. We’re not seeing two guys dog it around the rink and then throw down the gloves. But that is the way that the media runs with the story.
This brings me ultimately to my point about the NHL and perception.
Whether we’re talking about PK Subban, or Alex Ovechkin, or Sidney Crosby we get all of our information about a player from the media. The common thread with these three players is that each of them has had their persona created for them from within the media. For better or worse, they’ve been deconstructed and rebuilt within the media into a caricature of their real identity. Each of them has been categorized into stereotypical roles, playing archetypes that were created long before they ever emerged in the NHL.
Crosby became the leader with the heart of a lion. He’s the prototypical Canadian. Strong on the puck and destined for glory.
Ovechkin became the lazy Russian with all the talent in the world, but lacking the drive to be all that he could be.
Subban became the trouble making black kid who needs to learn how to play (as Darren Pang so mistakenly, yet eloquently put it) “the white way”.
Is there a grain of truth to the archetype? Sure. Crosby is an incredible leader. Ovechkin is surely capable of more. Subban should absolutely cut out the slew footing from his game.
But how much of what is said about these players based on actual evidence, and how much of it is narrative – developed for the sole purpose of selling papers, and making careers for pundits? How on earth could I as a person sitting at a computer in Toronto know anything about the true personality of any of these three players? And yet, every day we hear about how PK Subban is a bad team mate. Everyday we hear about how Ovechkin is lazy. The book on Crosby was written long ago.
I guess my point is that I caution against making judgements on player’s personalities based on the narrative that exists in the media. These writers are not in the lockerroom. Outside of their own assumptions, they have no clue what any of these players are really like. Its how a story about a play in practice where David Desharnais over-reacts to a check, can turn into a national headline about how Subban is involved in another scuffle.