There’s a certain level of scrutiny that comes with playing in a Canadian market.
The fans are perceived to be perhaps fiercer in their loyalty to their team, almost militant at times and when things aren’t going the correct way, tempers flare a little brighter and anger seeps in a little deeper.
There’s also a perception that the media in Canadian markets is tougher, that somehow scribes, radio personalities, and T.V. broadcasters can exert a level of influence that can turn the ship, even if ever so slightly.
Whether any of this is true or not is up for debate.
For P.K. Subban, however, there’s no argument to be made.
These aren’t merely perceptions for No. 76, but rather hard and harsh truths of playing in a hockey-mad market.
“The one thing that’s tough about Montreal, and I tell this to people all the time, is that regardless of what anybody says, the media and the community have an influence on the team,” Subban said in an interview with Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos that aired on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “That can make it tough at times because there is so much attention on the team, there’s so much attention on its superstars and players.”
Subban garnered much attention during his time in Montreal.
From fights with teammates to silly notions that his personality was too much and wasn’t the right fit for the Canadiens, to the enormous charitable contributions that endeared himself to the city.
Subban was loved and is still loved by the Montreal faithful, evidenced once again on Saturday with a chorus of cheers when he touched the puck in his second trip back to Bell Centre since being traded to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber in June of 2016.
During his interview with Kypreos, Subban said that for the Canadiens to be successful, the organization essentially needs to shelter its players from the vortex around them.
“I think it takes a very, very strong organization to manage that,” Subban said. “It has to be managed properly because when that starts to creep in, it’s tough. That’s not on the players to manage. I think that needs to be managed by the organization. That has to be the strongest part of that organization for the team to be successful.”
The debate of who “won” the Subban-Weber trade will rage on for as long as it bloody well wants to. It was a big deal no matter how you slice it and the impact its had on both teams isn’t hidden.
Subban is still the great defenseman he was in Montreal. The Canadiens haven’t been the same without him and the Nashville Predators, arguably, have never been better.
Like the one who got away, Subban’s second return to Montreal on Saturday is just another sad reminder of what was once theirs.