Habs Fever: PK Subban vs. Mike Richards
PK Subban knocks Ryan Malone flying at the Bell Centre (Oct. 13, 2010) THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Published Wednesday, November 17, 2010 1:01PM EST
MONTREAL - Most of us who have been around a while know how history tells us this goes.
In the beginning, P.K. Subban will be chided for his flamboyant style.
Many will hate how he brings so much confidence to his game that it comes off as disrespect.
Don Cherry will suggest that he is going to get his head smacked in if he is not careful, basically creating the environment that he predicts.
Some player in his first year will try to bring PK down a peg.
Soon he will be a marked man in this league.
Subban's teammates will go from city to city defending him for doing what he has quite naturally and talentedly done since he first laced on his skates.
Subban will just go on being Subban.
Mike Richards will be one of many to come down on PK for a lack of modesty in his play.
Veterans don't like a player doing spin-a-ramas around them making them look foolish in the chase.
They don't like his desire to lay down hits at center ice and laying down hip checks.
They basically want the unwritten code to be followed.
Rookies will be asked to be quiet and sit in the corner.
Perhaps it is all a mind game that Philly is playing, where if they can stop PK from doing what he does best, then they can weaken the player and weaken the Habs.
People hated the Great One for the same reasons they hate PK
I happen to have been lucky enough to be working in Edmonton when Wayne Gretzky started in the NHL.
He was hated by just about everyone for exactly the same things.
They said Gretzky's a whiner. He has no respect for anyone. They headhunted him.
They said he was trying to embarrass them with his fancy moves.
Gretzky sloughed it off and said that he wouldn't change his game, but truth is Gretzky did watch his on-ice yapping, even though he was the captain of the team.
When he complained to the ref, in some measure it was his job.
Then years passed and the jealousy that he was the great one dissipated.
In fact, it went full circle.
It was not three years later, Gretzky became a great ambassador for the game, a saviour for a dying league.
That's how it goes and that has been how it has always gone in the NHL and in sports overall.
I am not saying Subban is in the same talent class as Gretzky, only that any young player who stands out as talented, confident -- cocky even -- talks some on the ice, has some fancy moves, is going to get this criticism levelled at him.
And just like Gretzky, here is a prediction of what they will be saying three years from now: that Subban is a great ambassador for the game; that his moves thrill the fans and put bums in seats; that being black helps too as perhaps African-Americans will not think of hockey outside of their sport choices growing up.
PK will do commercials just like Gretzky as a marquee face in the league.
Throw other talented players into this theory and the results are the same: Crosby, Lemieux, among others who got the "Shut up kid" treatment.
And the lack of respect they feel Subban has for them now, just like Gretzky before him, will be an embarrassment to the likes of Mike Richards as time reveals truth.
Three years from now it will be Richards who has to defend his character as bitter and jealous, and Subban will be defending Richards because that is the character of Subban.
They will play on Team Canada together and Richards will want to do a rewind on last night.
It is Richards who in truth should want to take back some moments in his career like the David Booth hit that set Booth's career back and as a necessary hit against a defenceless player had no respect in it whatsoever.
This is how the future will play out for Subban and Richards. How do I know? Just look to the past.