Teams participating in the World Cup of Hockey finalized their rosters Friday, providing plenty of news about who’s in and who’s out of the eight-team tournament.
Three black players will represent their countries in the games to be played Sept. 17-Oct. 1 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto is also the home town of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. But Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner as the National Hockey League’s best defenseman, won’t be there because Team Canada didn’t add him to its roster.
“The decisions weren’t easy, and with the depth of player talent we have in Canada, we knew it would be a difficult process to finalize our roster – but it’s what we signed up for, and we feel we’ve been able to put together the right balance to create a winning team,” Team Canada General Manager Doug Armstrong said.
Canada selected seven blue-liners: Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks; Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin of the Los Angeles Kings; Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks; Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues; and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.
Subban was 12th among NHL defensemen in scoring in the 2015-16 regular season with 6 goals and 45 assists in 68 games. Weber finished ninth among D-men with 20 goals and 31 assists and Doughty was tenth with 14 goals and 37 assists.
An article in Canada’s National Post Saturday had a lead that summed up the Subban skip best: “Call him P.K. Snubban.”
“OK, so the nickname needs a little work but that doesn’t excuse the fact the reimagined World Cup of Hockey will be devoid of one of its marquee talents: The marvelous P.K. Subban,” John Matisz wrote.
Subban’s talent is undeniable. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley, appearing in filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason’s “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future” black hockey history documentary, said Subban should simply be known as “Norris” – as in Norris Trophy.
Subban represented Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, but Team Canada Head Coach Mike Babcock made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of Subban’s game. He played only 11 minutes – all in one game – during the entire Olympics.
Many Subban fans feel he’s disrespected by the Canadian hockey establishment – be it the Canadiens, Hockey Canada, or old-school hockey heads who think he’s too mouthy, too flashy, too…whatever.
After Montreal endured the hockey season from hell – a 38-38-6 record, no playoff berth – the Canadian rapper Wasiu had had enough with the Subban bashing.
Earlier this month, Wasiu picked up the mic and dropped “P.K. Subban,” a sometimes-explicit tribute to the player he says is “putting the city on his back.”
“The Canadiens had a bad season and the local media pointed the finger at P.K.,” Wasiu wrote in an essay for Fader. “It’s funny though, because he’s the best player and we all know he isn’t the problem. Same way when there’s violence that occurs at a club or in general, the thinking is to go check on the black people first because they look like they ‘fit the description’ – even if they weren’t the ones to start any problems.”
Wasiu’s is the second rap homage to Subban and his skills. Toronto-based rapper/producer Saukrates contributed “Say I” in 2011 as part of a Nike ad campaign that featured Subban.
If P.K. was P.O.’d about being excluded from the World Cup of Hockey, he didn’t show it over the weekend. Hanging out with the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre Saturday, Subban told Canada’s Sportsnet “I just want to see Canada win gold. So, I’ll be there cheering just like everybody else.”
“It’s a selection process,” he added. “So either you get selected, or you don’t . All I can do is be a model citizen. I’m Canadian so I support my country and I support my team just like everybody else.”
Another notable World Cup omission is Dallas Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya from Team Sweden’s roster.
Oduya, who won Stanley Cups with Chicago in 2013 and 2015, represented his country at the 2014 and 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.
Despite no Oduya and no Subban, there will still be players of color to watch at the World Cup tournament.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will skate for Team USA. The Minneapolis-born big man – 6-foot-5, 260-pounds – with the booming slap shot finished third on the Jets in scoring in 2015-16 with 19 goals and 34 assists in 81 games.
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones made the World Cup’s Team North America roster. The Texas-born Jones tallied 2 goals and 18 assists in 41 games for Columbus after being acquired from the Predators.
Team Europe added Philadelphia Flyers left wing Pierre-Edourard Bellemare to its roster Friday. Bellemare, who is from France, had 7 goals and 7 assists in 74 games for the Flyers.