Oh, and it featured retired NHL All-Star John Scott dropping this criticism of P.K. early on in the profile:
“I don’t like him. I think on the ice, he’s a piece of garbage. Perceived as like a hot shot, [that] this guy thinks he’s better than everybody”
It was highly anticipated thanks to some choice quotes that were circulated earlier in the week, such as Subban saying: “I still have no idea why I’m not a Montreal Canadien, and quite frankly, I really don’t care.”
There was also NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes saying: “He’s a superstar, he’s the first fully black superstar in the history of our league.”
(Unfortunately, there’s no further elaboration on this in the episode, so Jarome Iginla will have to call Weekes on his own to find out what’s up with that.)
Jeremy Schaap, who’s really good at this, wove Subban’s history as a black player in hockey through the story, including that moment in 2014 when he scored an overtime goal against the Boston Bruins and was slandered with the “N-word” on Twitter by angry fans.
As Subban has done in the past, he downplayed his race when it came to being an NHL player.
“I never look at myself as a black player. I think of myself as a hockey player who wants to be the best hockey player in the league. I know I’m black. Everyone knows I’m black. But I don’t want to be defined as a black hockey player,” he said on ESPN.
But a good chunk of the segment was dedicated to that Canadiens trade of Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, which Schaap called perhaps the biggest in the NHL since the Gretzky trade.
There’s not all that much revelatory here – Montreal’s motivations remain murky, and Subban himself said he never got an explanation for it – but it helped serve the story in two ways: To set up that Subban’s dream was to be a Canadien, and that was taken from him; and to set up the emotional apex of his season so far, that tearful return to Montreal.
It’s a great look at Subban if a casual fan is watching ESPN and isn’t all that familiar with the beats of his career. Die-hard hockey fans probably rolled their eyes when Schaap said “in 2014 in Sochi, he won a gold medal for Canada” – yeah, those 11 minutes against Austria, his only game in the tournament, were key.
It also would have helped to mention the Carey Price injury that submarined the Canadiens’ season before the trade, if only to underscore how reactionary and misguided it was.
At this point, we know what we’re getting from a P.K. Subban profile: Goal celebrations and those that don’t like him because of them; his race and people that don’t like him because of it; a trip to the children’s hospital; and, of course, lingering shots of P.K. Subban walking in an arena in a perfectly tailored suit, which ESPN chose to score with 1970s blaxploitation funk music, with the graphics to match.
What we don’t usually get is a 20-minute segment like this on an NHL player on ESPN. Which is why despite the ridiculous implication that moving to an American market like Nashville was going to be bad from his “brand,” he was signed to a Hollywood agency and just had a featured profile on ESPN’s flagship news magazine program.
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