NASHVILLE – Normally, we’d bring you the wit and wisdom of P.K. Subban before his team’s most important game in franchise history. What he’s thinking. What this moment means to him, and to his entire family, who has been following him during the Stanley Cup Final. Whether seeing Sidney Crosby hoist the Stanley Cup on Nashville ice would destroy him.
Except there was no P.K. Subban speaking to the media on Sunday morning. Or on Saturday afternoon. Or on Friday. He hasn’t been made available since after Game 5, and we imagine this is the first time in his life Subban hasn’t spoken into a microphone during a 72-hour span.
Did a player who is never at a loss for words suddenly clam up after the Game 5 loss, or did his organization muzzle him?
On Sunday, hours before Game 6, the Predators had an optional skate. Subban skated. Per NHL media rules, that means Subban should be made available to talk.
And so a truly bizarre scene played out in the Predators’ locker room. Subban entered it in full uniform, briefly, before walking out. After he came off the ice, he was heard asking Predators PR staffers if he should talk to the media.
Moments later, reporters were told that Subban wouldn’t be talking.
Yet media from all over the world continued to stand around Subban’s stall, waiting to talk to a player that Predators Director of Communications Kevin Wilson said three times wouldn’t be available. Perhaps trying to will him into existence. Officials from the NHL attempted to intervene and have Subban made available, but were denied by the Predators.
The surreal “sit-in” lasted about 20 minutes. Finally, Wilson announced that the team was going to have a meeting and the media would have to clear the room.
We asked Wilson whether this was his call, the organization’s call or Subban’s. His explanation: That Subban “slipped out” on Saturday after the optional skate and was unavailable to reporters because of his apparent ninja-like abilities to evade team staffers, something for which Wilson apologized. As for Sunday, Wilson said Subban does not speak on game days, which may be a recent bit of superstition, considering it was a practice that occurred with regularity in the regular season.
(As he was explaining this, Subban slipped into the Predators’ closed-doors locker room area, walking briskly past everyone.)
Again: If the biggest star in your organization, whose antics have helped attract unprecedented attention to this series for the NHL, doesn’t talk on game days, it’s abject irresponsibility to not ensure he speaks on the eve of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Unless, of course, this is an organization decision to put a gag in Subban’s mouth ahead of Game 6, in a series where his comments – guaranteed wins, verbal jarring with Crosby over fabricated jokes – have at times made more headlines than the play on the ice, and have provided ample locker room material for the opponents.
The Professional Hockey Writers Association was expected to file a grievance to the NHL regarding Subban’s lack of availability.
Look, we freely admit this is a media naval-gazing story. Predators fans probably don’t care that Subban doesn’t talk, and NHL fans, depending on their allegiance, will use this as grist for the mill on “P.K.’s a distraction” stuff.
But what makes this rise about our usual petulant whining about “availability” is the context: It’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, and potentially the last game of Subban’s season. He’s been a lighting rod in this series. What he says makes news. And if the Predators organization, starting with GM David Poile, uniformly decided that it’s better for the team if Subban doesn’t speak before Game 6 – perhaps due to his previous comments in the series towards Crosby, or his fanciful “Listerine” tale that ended up being an outright lie – then that’s newsworthy. Putting a gag order on your star before a Stanley Cup elimination game is … rare, to say the least.
Of course, by not allowing your player to become a story, you then make him the story, which is pretty much amateur hour at this point in the postseason.
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