It’s been a long, hot, difficult-to-freeze-water-into-a-playing-surface summer for hockey fans. NFL training camps are just beginning and national sports networks are getting their reporters out of storage and lubing them up for another concussion-inducing season. Baseball continues to exist merely as Pensieve for old folks, and keeping track of NBA free agency requires at least one CPA in your friend group.
But fear not, for there has, indeed, been hockey news this summer, hot and out of season though it may be. It’s been a long time since we’ve talked, Crooked Scoreboard family, and I want to make sure we’re all caught up.
So here, below, are the most important news stories of the hockey offseason (so far). Let’s remember, regret, and recall them together, shall we?
PK Subban Traded
PK Subban, the greatest thing to come out of Montreal since my city stole their beloved Expos, is finally a free man. He was dealt from the Canadiens to the Nashville Predators for fellow all-star defenseman Shea Webber in what was surely the blockbusteriest blockbuster trade of any offseason in recent memory.
Montreal, where Subban spent the last six seasons racking up three all-star selections and a Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, is a shitty organization. There’s just no polite, French, comme-ci-comme-ca way of saying it. It’s insular, self-sabotaging, and while not overtly racist, probably pretty racist. See, certain folks at the organization like head coach Michel Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin have gone on the record time and again criticizing Subban’s game for being too “flashy,” “selfish,” “showy,” and any number of dogwhistle codewords you can limply dribble out for “too black.”
Subban, meanwhile, spent his time in Montreal becoming the most loved man in the province. He returned relevance to a team that was so “storied” they were optioning it into a Roald Dahl remake that no one of this generation would remember. He won individual accolades every year–a feat that dumb people call “selfish” while others call “performing at a high level in spite of having a shit sandwich for support.” He smiled. He signed autographs. He spoke French at press conferences. He did absolutely everything anyone could ask of a player on their favorite team.
Oh, and he gave ten million dollars to the freaking Montreal Children’s Hospital, donating an entire wing that now bears his name.
So what did the Canadiens do? They traded Subban for an older, worse (though not by much) defenseman with an absurd contract. Good luck with that, Montreal, and don’t let the door hit ya on the derriere.
Subban, for his part, is already being welcomed in Nashville like a long-lost son. His first week in the city, he was spotted in a country bar singing karaoke to Johnny Cash, waking the streets in a ten gallon hat, and while perhaps being a spot hokey, doing nothing on God’s green earth but endearing himself to the good people of Nashville, just as he had for the last six years in Montreal.
The Predators, unlike the Canadiens, are a franchise on the rise. Exciting young stars like Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi promised to give Tennessee hockey fans something to cheer about even before Subban arrived. But now?
Well, things are about to get real fun in Nashville, now.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Won the Stanley Cup
So, the Pittsburgh Penguins lifted the Stanley Cup after all. The Death Star won. Cobra Kai was victorious. Hail Hydra, and so on.
And while and NHL’s anointed seraphim standard bearer Sidney Crosby stroked his prepubescent lip hairs and drank deep from a Cup called “Told Ya So,” a whole roster of other Toms, Dicks, Harrys, and Evgenis each got their own day with Lord Stanley’s silver daughter.
The Day With the Cup is a beloved NHL tradition, toeing open the door a crack to let the redemptive light of “you helped, too!” shine upon even the lowliest fourth line scratches and backup-backup goalies. Lots of players take the Cup back to their hometowns, the tin titan making surprise appearances at elementary school pep rallies, local nursing homes, and childhood ice rinks. These displays are nice, and are a soothing balm to the white hot fire of cynicism deep in my belly that threatens to rip me in twain from the insides.
So what did the Penguins do with it? Penguins stuff. Eric Fehr, his first year on the Penguins after an unremarkable several seasons with the Washington Capitals, took the Cup to Tim Hortons, because of course he did. “Did he deliver it on a moose?” you may ask, and while no, he did not, I like the cut of your lazy Canadian xenophobia. Phil Kessel (whom you may know as the brother of Amanda Kessel), himself a new addition to the Penguins this season after years of futility and adversarial coverage by a bloodthirsty media in Toronto, took the Cup to Toronto. Kessel claimed it was to thank the community, but I know a big silver middle finger when I see one. Good on ya, Phil!
NWHL Redesigning Logos
The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) concluded its inaugural season this past spring with tremendous success. They took a sport whose culture often disappointingly involves equating players with women as a sign of weakness, and turned it on its head by putting an exciting, skilled product on the ice all over America. Stars like Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack, and recently signed Amanda Kessel cross-checked America right in the sexism and sent a big middle finger to “Joe from Kalamazoo” characters on sports talk radio all over the country: “Hey, Schlub, think you can do it better? We’ll skate circles around you, lay you out, and rip a slapper past you, and still have one more X chromosome than you do.”
While stabbing a Bauer skate blade right through the heart of misogyny and sports is badass as all get out, the NWHL made one big mistake this summer: they announced this week that they will be doing away with all four existing team logos, and choosing new ones for the upcoming season based on a fan vote. For a league currently heavily reliant on jersey sales, this is a smart move, if a bit one-dimensional. But there is a greater travesty unfolding before us.
I mean, seriously. LOOK at how freaking cool these logos are.
Hopefully next season is an even bigger success than the first for the NWHL. When human beings do cool stuff, we all win, and hockey is objectively the coolest thing a bipedal primate can engage in, short of doing it on a spaceship (chop chop, NASA). Dudes lacing ’em up for millions of dollars is neat and exciting. Chicks lacing ’em up as paid professionals for the first time? Hell yeah.
Jason Rogers is a hockey writer who also melts in the summer months. You should follow him on Twitter.