The Media Is The Message

Almost a year after they went down, the two most significant trades in recent NHL history are still shining a light on the chasm between the hockey establishment and its fans.

First, it was the “success” of the Oilers being pinned on Adam Larsson, and most recently there has been much hand-wringing about PK Subban now that he and the Nashville Predators are going to play for the Stanley Cup.

But, here’s the thing: everyone is entitled to their opinion. Hockey is a complex sport with lots of variables and it’s not very often that you can get definitive answers to any aspect of the game, including who did or did not come out ahead on a trade. So Spector and Dreger can be wrong all they want.

What I do take issue with, however, is the notion that they speak for the vast array of hockey fans, whether in a given hockey market, or across the country, and sometimes even the entire league. We have seen a similar thing here in Vancouver, with people like Trevor Linden (or his stenographers in the local media) purporting to say that fans wouldn’t support a rebuild. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.

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There’s a certain arrogance there that goes beyond the self-confidence required to put your opinions to paper/screen. The arrogance is in the idea that these pundits have been anointed as the tribunes of the hockey establishment; that they alone hold the key to the fount of accepted wisdom. I mean, what else are you to take from this:

Conduct a poll of 200 hockey men, and it might be unanimous: Edmonton got what it needed in that deal, and giving up Hall was well worth it.

Because, you see, Spector talks to “hockey men” all the time. He is your gatekeeper. And he knows them so well, that he doesn’t even have to actually poll those 200 hockey men. Adam Larsson was the key to getting the Oilers to the playoffs and winning this particular game against the Ducks.

Contrast this to, say, how that same hockey media treats a guy like PK Subban.

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Here you have Ray Ferraro jumping in to say that hey, hockey is a team sport. You can’t just give Subban all the credit like that. I mean, how can we expect a single defenceman to have the ability to shut down opposing forwards like that? Oh.

So our story so far: Adam Larsson can single-handedly win you hockey games in ways that Taylor Hall could not, and PK Subban just happened to be on the ice when two of the games best offensive players were kept off the score sheet. Yes, I’m not counting Toews. Although, I can’t believe the traditional hockey media is not singing Subban’s praises given how he was able to counteract Toews’ superhuman ability to leadership the Blackhawks to a win.

But then, the Subban/Weber trade is another one of those bellwether deals that separates the true believes from the heretics. While in many other business environments, reliance on accepted wisdom is seen as a detriment to sustained growth and innovation, in the hockey world it is truly treated like gospel.

And sure enough, there was “insider” Darren Dreger preaching from the Mount Royal on TSN 690, as transcribed by Chris Nichols at Fanrag Sports:

But you know this. If P.K. Subban played in Edmonton, if he played in Toronto, or if he played in Vancouver – any Canadian market – I think the view would still be the same. We don’t embrace that personality in Canada, I don’t believe, yet the way that they do in Nashville. Not by a long shot. He whips his tarp off and swings it over his head in celebration of that victory last night, or in celebration of anything that’s big that’s happening in Nashville, and guess what – the community embraces it. They think it’s great. It’s headline news in a positive fashion, not a negative fashion.

So I don’t think this is just a Montreal story. I think that this is a Canadian story.

And that’s where I just couldn’t take it any more.

As I said earlier, Dreger can have all the wrong opinions he wants and carry water for all the front offices he cares to.

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And he does that a lot.

Like that time he ran cover for Bergevin in the face of a report from Louis Jean that Subban was being shopped:

Or when he told the world that Subban was “flat out unavailable” on June 9, 2016.

Ron Howard voiceover: He was.

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Anyway, I digress. I’m used to Dreger and other prominent hockey opinion havers purporting to speak for their friends in the front offices around the league. What I could not abide, however, was him purporting to speak for hockey fans across the country.

To think that a hockey market like Vancouver wouldn’t put up with PK Subban’s “personality” is just asinine. This is a fanbase that just recently adored players like Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo. That revered the joyful exuberance of Pavel Bure scoring goals. That embraced the larger-than-life Gino Odjick. That cheered the persona of Tiger Williams. This is a market that wouldn’t embrace PK Subban’s personality?

Come on.

This market would love this guy:

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Heck, now that I think of it, this market would love any Subban.

If only we had one lying around somewhere.



  • Locust

    “There’s a certain arrogance there that goes beyond the self-confidence required to put your opinions to paper/screen. The arrogance is in the idea that these pundits have been anointed as the tribunes of the hockey establishment; that they alone hold the key to the fount of accepted wisdom.”
    Yep, describes Canucks Army to a tee.

  • Bud Poile

    We all know Benning enquired about P.K..
    His younger brother plays in Utica and won’t be Norris material any time soon.
    Back on topic,we had to put up with Kesler.
    We fans had zero choice that he played here but Benning dumped his act on day three.
    P.K. is a self-promoting sideshow but at least he is harmless.
    Locust points out the obvious.A select few CA writers and posters fall all over themselves slagging Benning and Linden but most of the readers here carry and project a patience and balance they don’t subscribe to.

    • truthseeker

      Problem would have been it would have been Tanev for Subban and that’s at best a lateral move for the canucks and probably more likely a step backward. Sure the canucks could use P.K.’s offense but Tanev’s D is more important.

      We simply did not have the assets to get P.K. Top pairing D just don’t get traded unless it’s for another top pairing D. Hence why it was Weber for Subban.

      • Neil B

        I get what you’re saying, truth; and I agree with the overall thrust. If, by some miracle, we had acquired PK, we would still have needed Tanev in order to complete the “win now” defence. That said, Bergevin is old-school, and I doubt that he would put too much stock in the data that suggests Tanev is actually among the best shut-down defencemen in the NHL (if not actually the best). It would not have been Tanev going back the other way.

    • Bud Poile

      I remember growing up in B.C. when the province didn’t have NHL hockey.
      Having a team and watching NHL hockey has been an entertaining blessing these last five decades.
      With some owners that wouldn’t/couldn’t spend and the worst draft record in the league for generations there is a renewed hope among experienced fans now that the team finally has an experienced builder at the helm.
      Many young fans that have no patience or experience should have the experience of life without an NHL team.
      They might be more grateful,patient and understanding.

  • crofton

    So you trash Dreger for “speaking for hockey fans…” and yet you attempt to speak for those same hockey fans saying….” the market would love this guy”. Can you say double standard? I for one, would not love to see him in Vancouver, and it has nothing to do with skin colour (I’d love to see Wayne Simmonds here). If for no other reason, it’s because of his performance in the playoffs against the Senators, when, after being called for a slashing penalty on (I think it was) Mark Stone, he waved his arms high in the air to protest his innocence, then proceeded to jump up and down in further protest, like a 3 year old that didn’t get his way. Any respect I may have had for him as a pretty good (but not IMO, Norris worthy) defenseman evaporated.

    • truthseeker

      yeah cause nobody in the NHL ever protests a call…..lol..

      Come on man…..the NHL is full of the most classless athletes in sports. Always whining and cheap shotting each other.

        • floaty

          “I’ve never seen anyone protest a call quite like he did on that one”
          So you weren’t watching the playoffs in 2012, eh? Cuz I doubt whatever Subban did was as egregious as this Drew Doughty meltdown.


          Players melt down over penalties all the time. That’s why I despise most of the Sharks star players. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want Pavelski, Couture, or Thornton on my team. If the worst thing you can say about Subban is that he overreacted to a penalty in a highly competitive situation, then that’s pretty good. Give me PK (who I believe is Norris-worthy, but that’s another discussion), give me Doughty, give me all the complainers if they got the talent and the desire to back it up. I’m not rooting for Greenpeace, I’m rooting for a damn hockey team.

  • Double U Tee Eff

    “with people like Trevor Linden (or his stenographers in the local media) purporting to say that fans wouldn’t support a rebuild. ” Sure would like to see a reference to that quote. Totally fabricated by this author who’s a legend in his own mind.

  • TheRealPB

    I think you’re conflating two separate issues. Throwing in the dig at Linden doesn’t really make sense with your overall point — the old boy media versus fan perceptions. You can disagree with the notion that the Canucks fanbase won’t support a burn-it-to-the-ground rebuild all you like. But the truth is that none of CA who clamor for this can show an actual STRATEGY like this that is successful (I don’t mean Edmonton and TO lucking into generational players at the draft, I mean actually setting out to tank and showing that it works). Whereas you can show pretty quickly by previous evidence what happens when you do suck for long periods of time — the empty seats and carousel of ownership changes in the late 80s and 90s during the last two Canucks rebuild periods bear testimony to that. And we already see empty stadiums in these declining years in Vancouver. So that’s really not too much of a stretch.

    But I agree completely that the arguments in favor of the Larsson-Hall trade (still dumb) or the Weber-Subban trade (awful) make zero sense. And Subban is a pretty beloved player still in Montreal — lots of fans cheering hard for him — for his work on and off the ice. It is really hard for me to not see a pretty big double standard directed at him (as well as some other players like Evander Kane) based on race (disguised usually as “cultural differences” or “attitude”) simply because they don’t display some kind of bizarre adherence to a cultural code that doesn’t exist. It’s not just a racial thing; skill players in general have long been sneered at because they are somehow not masculine enough or humble enough or whatever. I remember Gretzky and Anderson being called divers and whiners, Mario Lemieux being called soft, Crosby still gets a lot of that treatment, not to mention all the anti-Euro idiocy. I don’t really think the Vancouver media is as bad as that, though they play pretty much into it whenever someone gets traded and then all the whispers start that McCann was a prima donna, Tryamkin wouldn’t work hard enough, Kesler is a bad human (well that one isn’t too hard to find evidence for).

    • Bud Poile

      I was in the Saddledome during the Battle of Alberta days.
      Gretzky was long labelled a whiner and Anderson the diver.
      Both labels were created from fact.
      Pedan and some player’s (forget which one} Mom labelled McCann.
      Lemieux had back issues and a myriad of health issues.
      He never played soft.
      The media is a messenger but some media members are /were innacurate and reaching for stories/headlines to sell copy.
      We ssee that here quite often.

      • truthseeker

        Sometimes the media get it right though.

        McCann was a whiner. Look at his draft day comment. Makes everything else said about him completely believable.

        And look at the cancer that was that loser Cody Hodgson. Complete prima dona. Useless slug.

        Vancouver fans have a history of being behind the curve when they get infatuated with a player.

        It goes both ways.

      • Neil B

        For what it’s worth, I think PB was referring to the way the media responds to Kane, and not the public’s response. Yes, Kane does have an attitude; but he’s not the first NHLer to have one. If I read PB aright, he’s saying that E Kane is not getting cut the slack a P Kane, for instance, got, for his criminal behaviours earlier in his evolution, and that race is part of that equation. And it’s kinda hard to disagree with that.

  • Buula

    Subban would be so loved here! Its been awhile that I’ve agreed and enjoyed a Graphic Comments article.
    Any guy with an awesome personality is embraced in Vancouver. He would be almost *too* adored and on a pedistol​.

    I personally love his uniqueness and celebrations. Not over the top but a nice flare that is fun to watch and exciting, remember those words and hockey?

    Dreger should go to bed

    • truthseeker

      yep….the kid is the most entertaining player in the NHL by far. Brings Bure like excitement on the ice and is a barrel of laughs and great for the league off it.

  • Jabs

    Most of this article has was spent trashing Dreger, an’t argue with that. Everyone in Vancouver has known this guy is a tool for years and it was exemplified at the trade deadline when it looked like Luongo was going to TO and Dreger was doing a play by play of the goings on, first hand input from his cousin no doubt.

    The thing is, Canucks Army doesn’t speak for the fanbase either. You have a lot of great pieces on prospects in the draft and do a great job breaking news but your opinions speak to a small niche of fans, those who really don’t care about hockey but are more into over analyzing everything to the point it isn’t fun anymore. This is where the arrogance lays, trying to take the high road, being elitist…..come on guys, get your heads out of the sand.

  • truthseeker

    Fact is Larsson did help to stabilize the oilers back end. He is more important to the team than having another winger. Even if that winger can score a lot. D is everything in today’s NHL. And Larsson isn’t even THAT great. He did single handedly cost the oilers a game when he passed that puck to getzlaf. Tanev doesn’t make that mistake I guarantee you that.

    And that’s why Benning should refuse everything short of an active NHL producing young center with top line potential, + a prospect, and a pick.

    As for Subban…..can you imagine a Subban/Tanev pairing? Glorious that would be. Best pairing in the NHL bar none.