On Thursday night, Montreal Canadiens player P. K. Subban scored the winning goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal. Predictably, Boston fans were outraged. In this case, though, with Subban as one of the few black players in the league, their anger took a sickeningly racist turn.
On this superficial scale of chromaticity, P.K. Subban is endowed with the darkest of chocolate hues. None of this should matter in a game of Olympic hockey where the only colour on our minds is gold. And Subban's skin colour should definitely be of no consequence in a multicultural country like Canada. Yet, reaction to the sight of a black man on Team Canada's Sochi roster, as it did at the 2013 World Juniors, revealed that a nation that "doesn't see race" has discarded its rose-coloured glasses.
Despite being crowned best Defenseman in the NHL, scoring 11 goals and 27 assists, as he matched his career-high 38 points in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13, P.K. Subban can't seem to catch a break. His teammates, his coach, hockey commentators and even the fans have difficulty accepting the Norris Trophy winner. No one can seem to pinpoint the underlying reason behind the anxiety. Maybe their issues with him are only skin deep.
I'm Canadian. I like sports. I like hockey. I also happen to be Black. That's why it was such a point of pride to see P.K. Subban on the ice; the NHL was finally making good on its intention to court more non-white fans. Then I watched P.K.'s teammate, George Parros, get wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, and I wondered how many new fans thought they just saw a man die.