Sign supporting P.K. Subban showcases disconnect between NBC, NHL, fans

Leave it to the uber creative fans in Nashville and a pregame sign to turn a really stupid comment by a talking head on TV into a way to support their player.

During pregame warmups in Nashville, the Predators fan above held the sign against the glass for Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban and the rest of his teammates to see.

The sign is in reference to an asinine comment made on Friday about Subban by NBC hockey “analyst” Mike Milbury.

As many players on any given team are want to do, Subban was shaking his groove thang during warmups. To Milbury, that is inexcusable. He went on to call Subban a ‘clown.’  As the topic continued, both Milbury and panelist Keith Jones agreed Subban’s behavior was ‘a concern’ for the Predators.

To which the collective hockey universe rolled their eyes backwards so hard everyone fell over.

Frankly, outside of washed up crusty old NHL’ers who haven’t played in twenty years, Subban’s personality is refreshing. As that sign shows, Predators fans have embraced Subban and welcome his non-cookie cutter mold.

Milbury’s comments was met with anger from fans, but at the same time, increasing frustration.

Milbury has not reflected on his comments since Friday. Nor has he been stripped of any broadcasts by NBC, the NHL rights-holders in the United States.

It’s not like Subban left the ice during a game to, say, hit a fan with a shoe.

Or acted like the New York Rangers did, playing a game of on-ice football before Saturday’s game.


Or, Gord forbid, goof around – and dance(!!) – with kids during the Western Conference Final.

But then again, that’s Joe Thornton. Just another silly, bearded, white Canadian guy showing some personality.

Milbury is more than just the mayor from the town in Footloose. He’s what the NHL and their rights-holder deem as an acceptable ambassador for the sport.

Milbury has said countless unbelivable things throughout his tenure as a broadcaster for the network. For example, excoriating Alex Ovechkin, telling him to ‘act like a man.‘ Or calling Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ‘crack addicts.‘ Or being upset the St. Louis Blues didn’t give the San Jose Sharks ‘slight concussions’ (in the same WCF game Thornton was dancing in). Or saying teams should stop Corey Perry by hurting him in some ‘painful and permanent way.

(These are only four of many, many Mike Milbury ‘incidents.’ Happy Yahoo!-ing the rest.)

Yet he is still on the flagship NBC broadcasts in the United States.

Those who are not die-hard puck heads in the US aren’t tuning in to NHL Network to see the growing wealth of analysts like Kevin Weekes, Mike Johnson, Mike Rupp, Ryan Whitney, etc. (We’re sure they’re in the process of adding former women’s team players as analysts, too.)

Instead, potential new fans are welcomed to this sport by their uncle who is stuck in the past. Someone who refuses to believe the game and society as a whole is changing. Someone who sees a prominent black player staying loose during warmups before a big game as a ‘clown.’

Now the frustration sets in because what can we do?

Hockey’s status among the major sports continues to be inconsequential. This is best illustrated by ESPN’s decision to eviscerate their hockey coverage by laying off a majority of those who cover it.

Those of us in the US are stuck with NBC (outside of local coverage) for at least another four years. If we want to legally watch hockey in the States, especially during the playoffs, we’re stuck with NBC, and stuck with Milbury.

NBC’s continued half-assed effort to bring meaningful hockey coverage to the mainstream is incredibly frustrating. (Hello: They’ve kicked playoff games off NBCSN and NBC for Ninja Warrior and/or Team Ninja Warrior.) NBC has shown little desire as a network to reach out to new fans. Instead they’re sticking with what is easy instead of trying to grow the game’s imprint.

The NHL appears fine with it by chosing not to get involved. It’s not like they haven’t used their influence over rights’ holders before. Just last year they allegedly meddled in the shake up at the Canadian staple broadcast Hockey Night in Canada to change analysts and hosts.

For now, all we can do is continue to inundate the NHL and NBC with public pressure to make a change on their flagship hockey show. As they stay quiet, they endorse what Milbury does and says.

This is no longer just ‘Milbury being Milbury.’ He’s defining a sport by being a voice for it.

Stick-tap to @PredsSigns for posting the picture