Ever since the U.S. Olympic hockey team was unveiled Wednesday, there has been only one subject of discussion in hockey – why the U.S. Olympic hockey poobahs decided to NOT pick Bobby Ryan, the Ottawa Senators right winger who is one of the leading U.S. goal-scorer in the National Hockey League this season.
It’s been a total embarrassment for the U.S. team and is pretty well the worst way they could start their Olympic campaign. So if you think that’s bad, just imagine for a second if Steve Yzerman and the Team Canada execs turn up in suburban Toronto – of course it’s happening in suburban Toronto! – on Tuesday morning and announce a team that does NOT include P.K. Subban.
If that happens – and I sincerely hope, for all concerned, that it doesn’t – the Bobby Ryan kerfuffle is going to look like a tempest in a teapot. First off, Subban is on another level as a player compared to Ryan. Ryan’s a star, Subban’s a superstar. Subban just won the Norris Trophy and that means last season he was the best defensemen in Bettman’s League – which might be news to the Toronto sports media and the oh-so-conservative middle-aged white boys from English Canada who run the hockey biz.
And he’s playing just as well this season. In other words, the notion that he’s not good enough to make the list of the eight best Canadian D-men is quite simply ludicrous. And most people who don’t live in Toronto understand this. I honestly believe part of the reason for the media diss on Subban is that the hockey establishment is so Toronto-centric and hockey fans in Toronto just can’t get over their blind hatred of all things Habs-related. I understand their angst – it must have been terrible to spend decades watching the Canadiens win Cup after Cup while the Maple Leafs fielded one mediocre team after another. But still, in the words of my psychologist, get over it.
Then there’s the race issue. The NHL has very few players from visible-minority communities and even fewer stars who’re not white. If they snub Subban, race – and Canadian hockey’s lack of diversity – is going to be front and centre in the ensuing discussion and I can tell you right now that that conversation is not going to be pretty.
Sadly, that’s probably why Yzerman and his pals will pick Subban. They should pick him because he’s one of the greatest players in the League. But the Team Canada brass – through their mouth-pieces on TSN – have made it pretty clear they don’t believe in P.K. But they’ll pick him because they’re not ready to have their Olympic quest for gold derailed by a bitter divisive debate.