Let’s face it — it’s the offseason, and even though Montreal is a hockey town, there’s very little to talk about in the summer months. But throughout July, talks turned to Montreal Canadiens star defenseman, P.K. Subban, and whether or not he would be re-signed with the team.
Yes, you read that right: whether or not.
See, it was a question because there were 3 very big contract talks to be held: Andrei Markov‘s, Lars Eller‘s, and P.K’s.
Markov was signed. Eller was signed. P.K. was not.
The rumors began to fly. Arbitration talks were set for August 1, meaning that if the team’s GM Marc Bergevin and P.K.’s agent Don Meehan did not reach a deal before then, an independent arbitrator would sit in and determine P.K.’s worth for a year’s term. Then, next season, the process would begin again.
Yesterday was August 1. The process would last 24-48 hours, with the legal mind taking over after the end of 48 hours.
It seemed like the ticking of a clock overshadowed the summer sounds in Montreal. Social media was abuzz with everything from pleas to sign P.K. to confidence he would to shaky fear that he might not. By the end of yesterday’s arbitration session, there had been no announcement. That was when social media exploded. The business of hockey is less understood than the passion.
“I’m quitting this team!”
“P.K.’s going to sign with another team and the Habs will deserve it for driving him away!”
This morning, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs were gleeful. After all, Subban is a Toronto native. With the money the Leafs have to offer, who’s to say he wouldn’t want to play “at home?”
Photoshops of P.K. giving interviews, with the words “P.K. Subban, Maple Leafs” hit Facebook.
Rants were rampant on Twitter and Facebook.
The poor people running the Montreal Canadiens Twitter account tweeted out a link to an interview held with Quebec speedskater Charles Hamelin, just to keep the account active. They were bombarded with profanities and actual blame for P.K. not being signed!
In short, many in the fanbase were approaching almost humorous hysteria. In other words: par for the course.
It is said Montreal has the best fans in the league. I must concur — being at the Bell Centre for a game is an experience where one must be prepared to lose one’s hearing for the night. Watching fans on television and social media, it’s easy to see the passion. And while other teams have their fanbases, Montreal’s is pretty renowned.
But the best fans in the league also come with their own brand of frenzy. Whether it is good or not, happy or not, there is no middle ground with Habs fans. It’s ratcheted up or down, but it’s out there.
It wasn’t surprising to see what was unfolding on social media. After all, with very little hockey news and few people thinking about ice as the temperatures climbed into the high 80s and 90s, this was a Story. Some may argue it was The Story. Talks of re-signing P.K. were happening mid-season, knowing he was reaching the end of his 2-year bridge deal and as he continued to show his talent in every game.
Why were fans worried? P.K. is the only Canadien to have played all 82 games of the 2013-14 season. He ranked high in every statistic, from goals and assists, to his plus-minus, to powerplay goals, blocked shots, bodychecks, and on down the line. He won the Olympic gold medal in Sochi. He’s won gold twice in World Juniors. He won the Norris Trophy in 2012-13. The man comes with a pedigree and his talent and enthusiasm speak louder than any medal.
Early Saturday afternoon, the announcement lit up mobile devices everywhere: “Montreal Canadiens reach an 8-year deal with D-man P.K. Subban.” It was palpable. Facebook and Twitter spread the news even more widely. Fans posted the emotional opposites of their previous status updates. Virtual high-fives were given all across the Internet. And there was a collective sigh of relief.
Bergevin praised him in the announcement released by the team, using the term “contagious energy.”
His assessment rings true. I can safely say this has resonated through Habs Nation as the fans now getting the news are renewed with excitement for the upcoming season, and — dare I say it? — the next 8 years.