By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Normally I like to give you all a bit of an introduction to what this column is going to cover but with how much we have to get to, let’s just dive right in.
“I THINK WE KNOW WHAT’S RIGHT FROM WRONG.” – P.K. SUBBAN
In one of the heaviest player-media settings I’ve ever been part of, P.K. Subban gave us a tiny glimpse into an area of the hockey world that nobody seems to know how to get rid of. Of course, I’m talking about the rampant racism that persists throughout all levels of hockey. What spurred Subban to talk? His brother Jordan was the victim of a racist remark/action in a minor league hockey game over the weekend. And as P.K. pointed out, as an NHLer he has the platform to do something about it.
There’s no excuse for racism to exist in hockey. It’s 2022 for goodness sake. Racism wasn’t okay in the 1950s, yet it was allowed to fester. It’s certainly not acceptable now. The difference between then and now is that we are smarter now. The same types of comments and actions that people waved aside back then don’t get to be swept under the rug now.
“I think the message is there,” said Subban. “People just have to listen.”
Subban is right. The message that racism won’t be tolerated is there. The problem is those who don’t want to listen. For too long hockey has been slow to change. We’ve seen that time and again over the past couple years. There have been sexual assualts covered up. Abusive acts waved away. And racist comments/actions have been allowed to go unpunished for too long.
The list goes on and on but that’s not the point. The point is that we need to do something about it. Everything P.K. Subban said is true. And there’s one thing that gets me more than the rest. He said, “our game is better than this.” Clearly here is a player who loves the game so much that he’s willing to persevere through all the hurt it causes him, his family and many others around the world. He doesn’t want to walk away. Subban wants to make it better for everyone. And that, that should be what everybody wants.
For those of you who want to hear Subban’s full comments, here’s a link to the video.
CANUCKS MAKE HISTORY
Changing track slightly, there was some good news on Monday as the Vancouver Canucks did their part to help make the game of hockey a little better by hiring the first female Assistant General Manager in team history. Her name is Émilie Castonguay.
This doesn’t help solve the racism problem, but it does attempt to make hockey more inclusive. In my book, that’s a good thing.
What does not necessarily help the game of hockey is the new combat sport being created by A.J. Galante and his Father Jimmy. For those unfamiliar with the Galante men, they were the subject of a Netflix documentary titled “Untold: Crimes and Penalties.”
The documentary delved into the history of the previously forgotten Danbury Trashers hockey team. Known as hockey’s “Bad Boys” the Trashers were renowned for their fighting and were eventually disbanded after Jimmy Galante was arrested due to his ties to organized crime.
Now they’re back and they’re calling their new venture “Ice Wars.” The idea is to have former NHL enforcers duke it out on the ice – rather than in a ring – in pursuit of being crowned the best. And yes, sources confirm an actual crown will be bestowed upon the winner of this fighting competition.
With the NHL actively trying to reduce/eliminate fighting for health concerns it makes you wonder how successful this new sport will be.
LONG ISLAND HEARTBREAK
Friday January 21, 2022, will forever be remembered as one of the saddest days in Islanders history. If you think that’s being overly dramatic then you haven’t been paying attention to the outpouring of emotions from all corners of the hockey world.
As the Islanders came off the ice at UBS Arena following their win over the Coyotes, they were greeted with the news that Hockey Hall of Famer and team legend, Clark Gillies had suddenly passed away at the age of 67.
The news hit the players, coaches, media and fans like a ton of bricks. Matt Martin and Barry Trotz emotionally spoke to the media about what Gillies meant to them. Butch Goring – Gillies’ former teammate – struggled to the find the words to express his grief during the post-game show. And over the weekend thousands of tributes poured in from all over. Not just about Gillies the player, but also about Gillies the man.
To capture everything Gillies represented in just a couple sentences is simply not possible. He will be missed, not just by his family, former teammates and fellow Long Island residents, but by the entire hockey world. He was taken from us far too soon.
RAISING A BANNER
Moving from Long Island to Manhattan, there will be a waterfall of emotions Friday night at Madison Square Garden. But they won’t be tears of sadness. Rather, the Rangers are raising Henrik Lundqvist’s number 30 to the rafters where it will hang alongside the other franchise immortals.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Minnesota Wild will be the Rangers opponents on Friday night. Why is that noteworthy? Well, it means Mats Zuccarello, one of Lundqvist’s closest friends, will be in attendance. While there’s no confirmation if the Wild will present Lundqvist with a gift during the ceremony, you’d have to think Zuccarello will be front and center applauding his longtime friend.
Bring tissues, you’re going to need them.
TYING A RECORD
One-time Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle did something Monday night that many over the past 35-years thought would never happen. He tied Doug Jarvis’ NHL record for most consecutive (regular-season) games played with 964. Barring something absolutely unforeseen, Yandle will assume the mantle as the NHL’s new “Iron Man” on Tuesday when his Flyers take on the Islanders.
Look out Rangers fans, Steve Valiquette’s Spidey-Sense is tingling. I won’t bore you with how often Valiquette’s “Spidey-Sense” is right or wrong, but it’s interesting that he believes J.T. Miller might be returning to the Rangers this season. Miller, currently a member of the Canucks, is a gritty goal-scorer who would provide an instant boost to the Blueshirts’ offense.
Would a trade package centered around Vitali Kravtsov get the job done? There’s no way the deal would be one-for-one. Could Kravtsov and say, Filip Chytil entice Vancouver? Maybe.
All we do know is the NHL’s Trade Deadline is fast approaching – it’s Monday March 21st – and the Blueshirts are sure to be active.