Sunday, July 3, 2016

The P.K. trade: disappointing but understandable

    One of the most telling tweets in the immediate aftermath of the P.K. Subban trade didn't come from a journalist or a teammate or anyone otherwise involved in the day-to-day machinations of the Montreal Canadiens.  
   It came from a chef.

   David McMillan is the co-owner and public face of what is arguably Montreal's trendiest and most renowned restaurant - Joe Beef (along with upscale sister properties Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon).  He's a star in his own right, and a straight shooter with strong convictions.
   Reading between the lines of his tweet, it's not unreasonable to speculate that the celebrity chef at a favorite haunt of wealthy young hockey players witnessed some behind-the-scenes dynamics that journalists aren't privy to, and garnered some insight from unguarded conversations over several bottles of fine wine.  McMillan's tweet didn't betray anyone's trust, but it reinforced the theory that Subban put himself before the team.  
   And really, what logical reason was there to trade Subban if he hadn't become an untenable presence in the organization?  An immensely talented player entering his prime athletic years should be untouchable.  Add to that his enormous and almost universal popularity among the fan base and the unprecedented commitment to the community in the form of a $10 million dollar fundraising initiative for the Montreal Children's Hospital, and it's unthinkable that the Canadiens would send such a team and community pillar packing.  Unless...
   The racism trope doesn't pass muster in explaining the trade.  I don't doubt for a minute that there's latent racism among some who don't even realize that their dislike for P.K. is rooted in an outdated mentality, but hockey is a business, and an asset of Subban's caliber isn't surrendered on the grounds that he's "uppity".  As much as the notion of the self-confident black man not "knowing his place" no longer applies, neither should behavior detrimental to the greater good be excused or rationalized by playing the race card.
   I was as surprised and disappointed as most Canadiens fans when I heard that Subban was traded.  Shea Weber will be an excellent defenceman and leader for the Habs, but P.K. transcended the game and was part of the fabric of Montreal.  That's what makes it sad.  But as P.K. himself said when he was asked about trade rumours, "where there's smoke, there's fire".  There were smoke signals aplenty that Subban had outworn his welcome, and that whatever his talents and contributions on the ice, they were no longer worth the aggravation.