Saturday, July 02, 2016

PK Subban: Stop your whining, Montreal

Disclosure: I'm a Montrealer. Born there. Raised there. Moved away almost 20 years ago and raised our kids in Ontario, but this city never quite leaves any of us. I was, am, and always will be a Montrealer.

Which might make what I'm about to say a little difficult for some of my onetime fellow Montrealers to swallow.

The story: The Montreal Canadiens are a professional hockey team. They play in the National Hockey League, out of the Bell Centre, and are rightly revered as one of the most storied teams not only in hockey, but all of sports. Sure, they haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1993, but their 24 banners hanging from the rafters justifiably rank them in the mythical zone.

I still root for them. Like the city where they play, this team never quite leaves your bloodstream. Or your heart.

This week, the team traded arguably its best-known player, PK Subban, to the Nashville Predators. The team got Shea Weber in return. And as you'd likely expect whenever a mega-trade is announced, fans aren't holding back their displeasure.

Now, I appreciate the passion that fans may have for their team. It's more than just a sports team - it's a civic identity, a shared sense of history, a kind of glue that binds the broader community together. So when you're not happy with how the team is being managed, it's perfectly fine to disagree with the process. And given the fact that the Habs missed the playoffs this year after an epic meltdown, it's perfectly fine to appreciate how unhappy some fans might be that their favourite player had been traded away. Similarly, PK was more than just a major presence on-ice, as he became known throughout the Montreal community for his innate generosity - including a $10 million donation to the Children's Hospital and numerous gestures to create bonds with kids and adults well beyond the arena. To wit, that time he dropped in on some kids playing street hockey. Just because.

To no one's surprise, the fans aren't happy. But the degree of unhappiness - and outright nastiness - has stretched way beyond the realm of normal or balanced. Social media has been overflowing in recent days with invective directed at Canadiens management - primarily GM Marc Bergevin. And that invective is, in a word, ugly. It's either the worst trade in history, something that'll destroy the team for the next generation, cause for another riot downtown, a tragedy of epic proportions, or all of the above. More than a few fans have called for Mr. Bergevin's head on a figurative plate, and the term, "Embarrassment" has been thrown around more than a few times.

The only embarrassment here is the degree of the response, and the machine-gun-stream of social media posts of people - many of whom have never laced up a pair for so much as a game of midwinter shinny on a neighbourhood rink - that betray their absolute inability to put any of this into its proper perspective.

During a week when folks who simply wanted to travel the world or get home to their families were killed in a Turkish airport, and a 13-year-old girl was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while she slept in her own bed, a hockey trade hardly qualifies as tragic. When the echoes of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida continue to reverberate through the gay and broader community, it's ridiculous to elevate PK Subban's departure to the same level of criticality.

In short, it's a freaking game, people. Some games you win, and others you lose. And as elated or sad as you may feel when the game is over, none of it really matters beyond the field of play. Our hometown London Knights may have won both the OHL season championship and the Memorial Cup this year, for example, but life continues on in its wake. The only difference: A temporary feeling of elevated civic pride and an extra trophy in the display case at the downtown Budweiser Gardens arena. Last year, the team didn't bring home the hardware. Does any of this really matter in the day-to-day minutiae of your life? Because if you answer yes, you have no clue.

We place so much importance on the activities that surround grown men trying to shoot a puck into a net that when we lose our minds over a controversial trade, no one seems to question the ridiculousness of it all.

Well, I'm questioning it here. Kindly get over it, people. No one died and no one's life - beyond those of the multi-millionaire players whose lives the proletariat fan base now use as excuses to whip themselves into a foamy-mouthed frenzy - is materially affected in any way by the fact that a couple of players will be playing for different teams in a few months. By all means, cheer for your team. Wear the jerseys with pride. Enjoy the shared sense of community when they win, and the shared sense of support when they don't. But know where to draw the line - because too many of my one-time fellow Montrealers seem to have lost their beans this time out. And it's rather hard to watch. Or even admit I was/am one of them.

If you're going to freak out over anything, freak out over actual injustice and actual tragedy. Do something about addressing the hatred that raises kids bathed in hatred, nurtures them to commit murder and incents the communities that created these monsters in the first place to dance in the streets as they celebrate the killing of innocents. Do something more real than screaming into the social media echo chamber over a transaction that means nothing in the real world. Otherwise, you're just a moron in an oversized and overpriced hockey jersey.

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