Show me the Color of Hockey

With the 2014-15 National Hockey League season just a few weeks away, I’d like to see and hear from hockey fans of color about your hockey experiences – as players young and old, as parents, as teams, as fans, whatever.

I’d like to post your photos accompanied by a bit of information about you: how you got involved in the game, what you love about it, and who’s your favorite player. I’d, also like to know your predictions on which team will win the Stanley Cup, which player will win the scoring title, and who’ll be the league’s most valuable player.

Once I get enough responses I’ll post the results, hopefully before the puck drops at the NHL’s first regular-season game next month. So don’t be shy, send your pictures and stories to colorofhockey3582@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Former NHLer Mike Grier to coach all-star team of American hockey prospects

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Mike Grier already has his strategy down for coaching a squad of some of the best 2015 NHL draft-eligible players born in the United States: just open the bench door and point them to the ice.

“You’ve got all the best players around so you won’t have to do too much,” Grier told me. “I’ll keep everyone involved and keep the lines flowing.”

Grier will test his coaching philosophy on September 25 when he serves as a bench boss at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, home of the Buffalo Sabres.

“It’s definitely an honor to be involved in this event,” Grier said. “It’s a big deal for USA Hockey and you’ll have a lot of NHL teams watching.”

Rugged forward Mike Grier had two stints with the Buffalo Sabres during his 15-year NHL career (Photo/Bill Wippert)

Rugged forward Mike Grier had two stints with the Buffalo Sabres during his 15-year NHL career (Photo/Bill Wippert)

Forty-two players who’ll be eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft will compete on teams coached by Grier – who played 15 seasons for the Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and San Jose Sharks – and Eddie Olczyk, the lead hockey analyst for the NHL on NBC and NBC Sports Network.

Olczyk played 16 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He helped guide the Rangers to its Stanley Cup victory in 1994 and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

A Detroit native and Boston University hockey standout, Grier was the NHL’s third U.S.-born black player. He followed Indiana-born forward Donald Brashear and Ocala, Florida’s Valmore James who became the NHL’s first African-American player when he debuted with Sabres in the 1981-82 season.

James and Brashear were tough guys, on-ice enforcers known more for their fists than their scoring touch. Grier combined toughness with scoring. He was the NHL’s first African-American player to score more than 20 goals in a season. He finished his career with 162 goals, 383 total points and 510 penalty minutes in 1,060 games.

Grier played for Team USA at the 1995 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship and won a bronze medal skating for the U.S. at the 2004 IIHF Men’s World Championship.

“It’s really something that I’m proud of, being one of the first to break through,” Grier said.  “The (minority) players who are coming up now are skill players who are contributing to their teams. It’s only natural to get more kids of color in the game.”

These days, Grier is involved in coaching youth hockey coaching and he served as an on-ice instructor last month at USA Hockey’s Boys’ Select 17 Player Development Camp.

“I’m just seeing what comes,” Grier said. “I like working with kids on the player development side of it and giving back to the kids.”

Ice Bucket Challenge a real challenge for Old Spice Guy

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Whether he’s promoting Secret deodorant or his trusty brand, Isaiah Mustafa – aka the Old Spice Guy from the hilarious TV commercials – can’t let an ounce of wetness touch his perfectly chiseled man-hide, even if its’s for a good cause like the Ice Bucket Challenge to combat ALS. But he’s always willing to try.

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” hates sweat but loves ice hockey and discussed his passion for the sport last November with the Color of Hockey.

"Old Spice Guy" Isaiah Mustafa rarely leaves home without his hockey stick.

“Old Spice Guy” Isaiah Mustafa rarely leaves home without his hockey stick.

 

When darkness fails – EA Sports fades St. Louis Blues’ Ryan Reaves too black in game

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Ryan Reaves

Ryan Reaves

As an on-ice enforcer who tangles with some of the National Hockey League’s best fighters, St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves is used to being a little black and blue after a tough game.

But one can excuse Reaves for being red hot miffed at EA Sports  for digitally making him waaaayyy too black in its NHL video game.

The real Ryan Reaves, left, and EA Sports' digital version of the rugged right wing.

The real Ryan Reaves, left, and EA Sports’ digital version of the rugged right wing.

Adventures – or misadventures – in pigmentation aren’t unusual in the media world. Time Magazine faced an avalanche of criticism when it darkened the facial features of then-murder suspect O.J. Simpson on its June 27, 1994 cover.

And Lifetime’s made-for-TV biopic about the late R&B singer/dancer Aaliyah has been slogging through controversy from the moment its producers initially cast an actress who many Aaliyah fans deemed too light-skinned to play the lead role.

However, the ghosts of colorations past probably mean little to Reaves, who’s dealing with the here and now. He made his displeasure with EA’s digital version of him known in one succinct tweet.

You’d think the folks at EA wouldn’t want to get on Reaves’ bad side. He’s the Blues’ designated hitter – with his body and his fists. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native tallied only 2 goals and 6 assists in 63 games for St. Louis last season. While Reaves finished 546th in the league in scoring in 2013-14, he was 12th in the league in penalty minutes with 126.

Reaves has been hearing it from teammates and friends in the NHL about his dark digital alter ego. Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, ever the eagle eye, tweeted that he noticed something different between the real Reaves and the EA one.

“I know eh…wrong jersey…,” Elliott wrote.

 

 

Jamaica begins its skate toward a national ice hockey team; Winter Olympics soon come?

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At the end of the two days, the head coach who had no idea about exactly what he’d gotten himself into sounded pumped.

“The talent level is off the charts,” Graeme Townshend, head coach of the under-construction Jamaican national ice hockey program proclaimed Sunday. “We have a lot of talented kids at our disposal. There are some good players up here, obviously, but I didn’t expect them to be as good as they are.”

The Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation took its first on-ice strides toward building an Olympics-worthy national team with a two-day tryout at a suburban Toronto rink over the weekend under the watchful eyes of Townshend, a former Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators forward who was the National Hockey League’s first Jamaican-born player, and Cyril Bollers, president and coach of Skillz Hockey.

And so it begins. Participants in Jamaica's first-ever ice hockey effort pose for history.

And so it begins. Participants in Jamaica’s first-ever ice hockey effort pose for history.

About 18 skaters – from as far away as Sweden and Washington, D.C., and as nearby as Scarborough, Ont., and Quebec – ventured to the Westwood Arena in Etobicoke, donned practice jerseys with Jamaica’s yellow, black, and green flag on the front, and showed Townshend, Bollers, and the rest of the JOIHF brain trust what they could do. Twenty-five players showed up for Sunday’s sessions. The tryout participants ranged in age from 15 to 28, Townshend told me.

“As the word got around, more and more kids started to find us, I guess,” he added.

The prospect of representing his mother’s homeland is what prompted 17-year-old forward David Southwells to travel to North America for the first time from his family’s current home in Tingsryd, Sweden, birthplace of former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kjell Samuelsson.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Southwells told me. “It would mean a huge amount, especially to my family because of our heritage.”

Hockey Coach Graeme Townshend (center) liked what he saw during Jamaica's first-ever ice hockey tryout.

Hockey Coach Graeme Townshend (center) liked what he saw during Jamaica’s first-ever ice hockey tryout.

Washington’s Duante Abercrombie learned about the Jamaica tryout via Instagram about a week ago. An alum of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority youth hockey program in the United States, Abercrombie happened to be in Whitby, Ont., training for a potential tryout with the Dayton Demonz of the Federal Hockey League when he got the message.

The trip from Whitby to Toronto was a short train ride for Abercrombie, one that also spurred a family reunion in search of his Jamaican roots.

“I didn’t speak to my dad when I was a child, and my mom (Devara Abercrombie)  always said my dad had Jamaican (in him)  but she didn’t know where it went because they didn’t speak. I was three months old when they separated,” Abercrombie told me. “I didn’t speak to him until I was 18 years old, and maybe just three times. The only other time I spoke to him was this past week when I let him know that he officially needs to find (his Jamaican) descendants and other stuff.”

That conversation led to more talk and a warm catching up between Abercrombie and his father, Michael Armstead.

“He was so excited. He’s kept up with everything that I’ve done,” Duante Abercrombie told me. “This weekend wasn’t just a great weekend for hockey, it also gave me an opportunity to connect with my dad.  It was really a powerful, powerful weekend. I just didn’t get a hockey blessing, I got a family blessing out of it, too.”

Abercrombie is only 28 but consider him a hockey lifer. After playing for Fort Dupont Head Coach Neal Henderson and winning a Washington, D.C., hockey championship with Gonzaga High School, Abercrombie set his sights on reaching the pro ranks.

His quest took him to New Zealand in 2011-12 to play for the West Auckland Admirals of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. Since then, he’s been preparing for his chance, perpetually training on and off the ice should a team come calling.

The closest he’s gotten to the NHL was practicing with Washington Capitals players Mike Green, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom at the team’s Kettler Capitals Iceplex facility in Arlington, Va., during the weeks of the 2012 NHL players lockout.

If Townshend and the JOIHF officials can find more players with Abercrombie’s desire and hockey pedigree, the fledgling program will be off to a good start.

The weekend’s tryout was the first of several to be held in Canada and the U.S. When Jamaica gained associate membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation in 2012, JOIHF officials boldly stated that their goal was to have a team on the ice at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Skillz Hockey's Cyril Bollers (left) provided his coaching expertise to the Jamaican hockey effort.

Skillz Hockey’s Cyril Bollers (left) provided his coaching expertise to the Jamaican hockey effort.

But JOIHF officials have since slowed their roll on 2018, acknowledging that they have a lot of work to do on and off the ice before even thinking about the next two or three Winter Games.

“It’s premature to shoot for 2018,” Townshend told me. “Logistically, it would be monumental. We’d have to work our way through the different divisions of the IIHF. We don’t have a rink in Jamaica yet, we have to wait until that’s done. There’s a first step in that process, getting funding for that rink.”

“We have to do it right, cross the T’s and dot the I’s. We have to satisfy the International Ice Hockey Federation’s guidelines.” he continued. “My job is to just keep plugging away and try to get us into competition outside of the International Ice Hockey Federation jurisdiction and just get the word out there, start getting more attention to the program, and once we do that I think the funding will come.”

A special Color of Hockey thanks to Damon Kwame Mason, Producer of “Soul On Ice: Past, Present & Future,” for shooting and sharing photos from the tryout. To learn more about his documentary project, please visit https://www.facebook.com/soulonicemovie and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_63win3qQSA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh Ho-Sang hangs with Skillz Black Aces

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New York Islanders 2014 first round draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang returned to his roots this week to provide some on-ice inspiration and motivation to the Skillz Black Aces, a youth hockey team that he played for over four summers.

Ho-Sang, a high-scoring forward for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, has called playing for Coach Cyril Bollers’ predominantly-minority squad “probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

N.Y. Islanders draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang (second to the left, second row) with Skillz Black Aces members. The finely-locked gentleman on the second row far right is dad Wayne Ho-Sang. Coach C.J. Bollers stands second row, far left.

N.Y. Islanders draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang (second to the left, second row) with Skillz Black Aces members. The finely-locked gentleman on the second row far right is dad Wayne Ho-Sang. Coach C.J. Bollers stands second row, far left.

Skillz is increasingly becoming a stepping stone to the National Hockey League Draft. Ho-Sang, the 28th overall pick, Barrie Colts forward Brendan Lemieux, a 2014 second-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Portland Winterhawks forward Keegan Iverson, the New York Rangers third-round selection, and Owen Sound Attack forward Jaden Lindo, a fourth-round choice of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are all alums of Skillz summer hockey teams.

So are Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013  first-round pick; Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey, a Buffalo Sabres second-round pick; forward Stephen Harper of the Erie Otters; and Bellville Bulls defenseman Jordan Subban, the Vancouver Canucks’ fourth-round pick and the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Boston Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban.

 

 

L.A. Kings’ Jordan Nolan, Garden River First Nation, enjoy a day with Lord Stanley

What a season for Los Angeles Kings center Jordan Nolan and his family.

In the flash of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez’ double-overtime, series-winning goal that vanquished the New York Rangers in June, Nolan became a Stanley Cup winner for the second time in three seasons.

Kings' Jordan Nolan shared the Cup with his family and his tribe (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Kings’ Jordan Nolan shared the Cup with his family and his tribe (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Earlier this season, his dad, Ted Nolan, returned from the hockey wilderness to become head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, the team that fired him after the 1996-97 season. And while most National Hockey League coaches not named Mike Babcock were at  home during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ted Nolan was busy in Sochi coaching Latvia’s national team.

Babcock’s Canadian team took home the Gold Medal, but only after squeaking out a nervous 2-1 quarterfinals victory against Nolan’s Latvian squad. And who knows what might have been had Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis not worn down under the barrage of 57 Canadian shots.

So Jordan Nolan’s day last week with the Stanley Cup was indeed a celebration – for the family and for the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The Nolans are proud Ojibwe who say their heritage is as much a part of them as hockey is part of Canada’s national fabric.

“I’m definitely excited to bring the Cup back to Garden and share it with family, friends, and fans,” Jordan Nolan told SaultStar.com in June. “It’s pretty cool to do it again. I wasn’t expecting this halfway through the season.”

Jordan Nolan appeared in 64 regular season games for the Kings last season. He registered 6 goals, 4, assists and 54 penalty minutes. He played in three playoff games last season and was held scoreless.

Hockey Hall of Fame’s Phil Pritchard, who travels with the Cup all summer as it goes to each member of the Kings’ roster and coaching staff for a day, was kind enough to share photos of Jordan Nolan’s day with Lord Stanley.

Los Angeles Kings' Jordan Nolan celebrates Stanley Cup victory at a Garden River Pow Wow (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Los Angeles Kings’ Jordan Nolan celebrates Stanley Cup victory at a Garden River Pow Wow (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Jordan Nolan brought the Cup to Garden River when the Kings won it in 2012, so he figured he had to up his game when he returned with Stanley last week. So he surprised father Ted by also brining the Jack Adams Trophy that he won in 1996-97 as coach of the year for his work with the Sabres.

Father and son cling to the winner's bling - Jordan Nolan (right) to the Stanley Cup, Ted Nolan (left) to the Jack Adams Trophy (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Father and son cling to the winner’s bling – Jordan Nolan (right) to the Stanley Cup, Ted Nolan (left) to the Jack Adams Trophy (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

 

Jordan Nolan strikes a familiar pose with the Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Jordan Nolan strikes a familiar pose with the Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

 

Ted and Jordan Nolan enjoy a little father/son quiet time with Stanley (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Ted and Jordan Nolan enjoy a little father/son quiet time with Stanley (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Rinks tell story of minority hockey history

Originally posted on TheColorOfHockey:

To the naked eye they are nothing more than buildings – unremarkable structures that house sheets of ice, scoreboards, benches and locker rooms.

But a handful of ice skating rinks across the United States and Canada are much more. They bear the names of minorities who’ve contributed to hockey history and their left imprint on the game and in the communities that these rinks serve. Some of the rinks may not look like much, but they mean a lot in terms of the little-known story of hockey’s rich minority legacy.

From the shores of Atlantic City, N.J., to the chilly  river banks of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, the rinks offer a mixed roll call of recognizable and some not-so recognizable figures.

Art Dorrington back in the day. (Photo courtesy Boardwalk Hall & Atlantic City Convention Center via Getty Images)

Art Dorrington back in the day. (Photo courtesy Boardwalk Hall & Atlantic City Convention Center via Getty Images)

At age 83, Art Dorrington has long hung up his skates. But you can’t keep him out of the rink. He’s a fixture and legend…

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More “Cool Runnings”? Jamaica seeks to build 2018 Winter Olympics hockey team

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The country that gave us Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Red Stripe beer, and the world’s funkiest bobsled team wants to add one more thing to its “famous-for” list: ice hockey.

The Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation is ramping up its efforts to build a national team that it hopes will follow in the legendary footsteps of the Jamaican Bobsled Team and compete in the Winter Olympics, as early as the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Jamaica took the first step in its seemingly improbable quest in May 2012 when it joined the International Ice

Former Bruins forward Graeme Townshend hopes to coach Jamaica in the Winter Olympics.

Former Bruins forward Graeme Townshend hopes to coach Jamaica in the Winter Olympics.

 Hockey Federation as an associate member. Step Two occurred last May when JOIHF announced the program’s management and coaching staff. The staff includes Head Coach Graeme Townshend, who was the NHL’s first Jamaican-born player when he debuted with the Boston Bruins in 1989-90; Paul Jerrard, who briefly played for the Minnesota North Stars, served as an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars, and is currently an assistant coach for the Utica Comets, the Vancouver Canucks’ American Hockey League farm team; and Cosmo Clarke, a former college player and minor leaguer who now specializes in strength training.

“There are quite a few players of Jamaican descent,” Lester Griffin, the Jamaica program’s assistant general manager, told me. “You have them playing in the NHL, you have them playing in the ECHL, college and juniors. It’s just a matter of letting them know about this and getting the message out there.”

Which brings us to Step Three. JOIHF is scheduled to hold its first-ever player tryout for Jamaican expatriates and other players of Caribbean heritage on August 23 at the Westwood Arena in Etobicoke, Ontario. Players from this and later tryouts will be considered for a 2015 exhibition touring team. That team will serve as an audition, of sorts, for a Jamaican squad that would play in IIHF tournaments and eventually attempt to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

“When the word first got out about this a couple of years ago I got a lot of calls from all over Canada, the United States, and parts of Europe from kids that want to be involved,” Townshend told me. “Now that the word is out officially that we’re having a tryout, I can just imagine there should be quite a turnout.”

With the clock rapidly ticking towards  2018, Townshend, 48, already envisions the type of team that he’d command in Pyeongchang. When he thinks Jamaica, he sees Slovenia. That country’s plucky seventh-place Olympic team had only one NHL star on its roster, Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar. The rest of the squad was a mix of younger and older international players, most of whom were bypassed by NHL teams.

“So I think our team would look something similar to that one,” Townshend said. “We wouldn’t have a big superstar, most likely, but we’d have a collection of players that I think could definitely compete. “We’d be relying on some former NHLers. Guys like (Montreal Canadiens defenseman) P.K. Subban (dad Karl Subban is from Jamaica and mom, Maria, hails from Montserrat) and the like wouldn’t be available to us because they’ve played for Canada, but players of that background. Then a collection of high-end juniors/college players who could fill the rest of the roster.”

Jamaica hopes hockey-playing cool runners will accompany its bobsled team to the 2018 Winter Games.

Jamaica hopes hockey-playing cool runners will accompany its bobsled team to the 2018 Winter Games.

Townshend, who runs youth hockey clinics and camps and served as a skills coach for the San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs, was approached by JOIHF officials in late 2011 about becoming Jamaica’s bench boss. Coaching a team from a warm-weather country without an indoor ice rink and has potential players spread around the globe? Sign me up, Townshend said.

“I’m on the ground floor of something that I think could be special. We’ll see what happens,” he told me. “For me, I think it’s a celebration of the heritage of the island. I’m proud that I came from the island, that my parents came to Canada with nothing and built a good life for ourselves, and hockey was a huge part of it. Jamaicans are great athletes and they’re passionate, and that’s everything that hockey’s all about.”

Jamaica still has quite a few hurdles – pardon the track and field metaphor – to overcome before playing its first official international game. IIHF rules require full member nations to have ice hockey facilities and grassroots hockey programs in place to grow the sport in-country. JOIHF officials say they’re starting street and roller hockey programs. As for the ice hockey facility, that’s going to take more planning and much more fundraising by the non-profit group.

“We’re going down there next month with a delegation and taking a rink person with us,” said Griffin, a long-time youth hockey organizer and official in South Carolina and Michigan. “We’ve reviewed a few places where we could put ice in or maybe a couple of locations where we can build a rink.”

Like Townshend, former Penguins defenseman Jim Paek is tasked with quickly building an Olympic hockey team(Photo/Pittsburgh Penguins).

Like Townshend, former Penguins defenseman Jim Paek is tasked with quickly building an Olympic hockey team(Photo/Pittsburgh Penguins).

Jamaica may be at a standing start in its drive for the Winter Games, but its not the only country trying to build a competitive hockey team in a hurry. South Korea, the 2018 Winter Games’ host nation, recently tapped former defenseman Jim Paek, who won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992, to coach its struggling national team.

Paek’s mission is to improve a team that was relegated to the IIHF’s Division I, Group B after it went 0-5 at the world championship which South Korea hosted last April. The nation is ranked 23rd in the world, wedged between Great Britain and Poland.

“Hockey’s a funny sport,” Paek, 48, told The Toronto Star recently.  “Look at the 1980 U.S. team (when collegians won Olympic gold). Not saying we’ll do that, but you never want to set your goals low. You might as well shoot for the stars if you can.”

Townshend says never say never when it comes to South Korea and Jamaica chances on ice.

“I’d say 20 years ago, I was one of those ignorant people that laughed at the notion that Californians and Texans would play in the NHL,” he told me. “Now you’ve got Texans and Californians making the NHL. It’s not too far out of the realm of possibility that you’ll have a Jamaican born and trained player in 20 years.”

The Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation’s first player tryout is scheduled for August 23 at Westwood Arena, 90 Woodbine Downs Blvd., Etobicoke, Ont., Canada. For sign-up information, visit http://www.JOIHT.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.K. gets paid – Subban signs 8-year, $72 million deal with Montreal

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Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban finally got the long-term deal that he’s longed for.

The 25-year-old NHL All-Star, 2014 Olympic hockey gold medalist and 2013 Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman signed an eight-year, $72 million contract with the Habs Saturday, ending months of sometimes tense negotiations that included an arbitration hearing last Friday. The deal makes Subban, who was a restricted free agent, one of the highest-paid defensemen in the league and represents the biggest salary cap hit – $9 million – against the Canadiens payroll for the 2014-15 season.

“We are very pleased to have reached a long term agreement with P.K. Subban,” Montreal General Manager Marc Bergevin said in a

Montreal Canadiens'  P.K. Subban.

Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban.

statement. “This agreement helps consolidate the future of our team. A key element of our group of young veterans, P.K. plays with a high level of intensity every time he steps onto the ice. Despite his young age, he carries a great deal of experience and brings contagious energy to the team. Defensemen of his level are a rare commodity in the NHL.”

In a tweet, Subban said “Thank you @canadiensmtl for making a commitment to myself and my family. Im Excited about the future! #letsgetit.”

“I think that it sends a strong message to me that they want me here and they appreciate everything I’ve done to this point and they believe in me as a player,” he added in a Saturday night conference call. “I think I’ve always believed that, but obviously in this process and coming out with this result, now everybody else understands it and can see it as well and doesn’t have to speculate about how the Montreal Canadiens feel about me.”

The contract opens a new chapter for Subban and closes the book on a productive and sometimes controversial 2013-14 season for him. He registered 10 goals and 43 assists as the only Canadiens player to appear in all 82 regular season games last season. He was tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring in 2013-14.

Subban led Montreal in assists – he was fifth among NHL defenders in helpers – and led the team in power play points with 23. He was second among Canadiens players in time on ice, averaging 24:36 minutes per game. He played a whopping 33 minutes in Game Four in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.

P.K. Subban will be jousting with the NHL's best, like Washington's Alex Ovechkin, for the next 8 seasons for Montreal (Photo/Chuck Myers)

P.K. Subban will be jousting with the NHL’s best, like Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, for the next 8 seasons for Montreal (Photo/Chuck Myers)

Subban was third on the Canadiens in penalty minutes with 81, shots on goal with 204, bodychecks with 135, and fourth in blocked shots with 125.

Though loved by Montreal fans, Subban’s gaudy numbers and electrifying style of play didn’t always translate to superstar treatment by his team or the hockey establishment. He was benched a couple of times last season by Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien in the closing minutes of games or overtime.

“You know what, I think that at some point in time, like I’ve said, just focus on what you can control and that’s just how you play,” Subban said in an interview last February on Montreal’s TSN 690 radio.“Sometimes it’s tough, you know. There’s different circumstances during the season maybe where things aren’t going your way and you can be frustrated with many different things, but all you can do and all you can control as a player is just try to go out there, play your game and do what you can. It could be tough sometimes, but you just got to remain positive and try to be as positive as you can, and that’s what you got your parents for and that’s why you got close friends. That’s where that father-son relationship with your Dad is important.”

Subban also had to sweat out whether he would be selected for Canada’s Olympic hockey team for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. In speaking  on the team selection process, Mike Babcock, Team Canada’s head coach and bench boss of the Detroit Red Wings, told The Toronto Star “You don’t put people on the ice you don’t trust…you’ve got to be a trustworthy player.”

Subban was eventually named to Team Canada but he only played 11 minutes during the squad’s Gold Medal run. Though he didn’t play much, Subban didn’t sulk. He supported his teammates, worked hard in practice, and kept the team loose with his outgoing and outsized personality. He took in the Olympic experience, hauling his family (minus hockey-playing brothers Malcolm and Jordan) to Russia for the festivities.

Subban’s stock soared during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He led the team with 5 goals and 9 assists in 17 playoff games. He scored a double overtime game-winner against the Boston Bruins last May that spurred some racist tweets by a few so-called fans. He got under the skin of some Bruins players including forward Shawn Thornton, who squirted Subban in the face from the bench with a water bottle.

Subban handled the racist tweets with class, saying the incident wasn’t a reflection of the arch-rival Bruins or true Boston hockey fans.

“It’s completely unfair for anybody to point the finger at the organization or the fan base,” he said. “They have passionate fans here, great fan base and since I’ve been in the league it’s been awesome. I’ve come to Boston many times, my family has come here, and it’s been great.”

 

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