When we heard that Nashville Predators star P.K. Subban was sitting down with Bill Simmons on “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” we knew it was going to be good. Simmons is a deft interviewer, especially when exploring subjects he has an interest in and a curiosity about. And P.K. is … P.K.
On Thursday’s podcast, he asked Subban how he’d change the NHL, if for example he was commissioner.
“One day, I’d love to be commissioner of the NHL,” said Subban.
“I think you’re disqualified because you have a personality,” said Simmons.
Does the NHL need fewer teams, Subban was asked? Subban believes that, perhaps, it needs fewer games.
“Let’s play less games. Our game is just, if not more physical, than the NFL. They play 16 games a year. We play 82, plus travel, plus playoffs. You’re looking at the top teams in the League … Jonathan Toews has played over 100 games a year, probably consistently, for the last five or six years. Think about the wear and tear on your body when that happens,” he said.
“If I had my way, I would like to see the games get cut down. I would like to see … 82 games, in my opinion, is a grind. You’re going to see great players’ careers get shorter because they’re playing more games. This year, just the schedule alone: We’ve been playing almost every second day for the whole season. It’s been crazy. Because of the World Cup and the All-Star Game and all these other things that are coming in.
“But here’s the reality: You cut games, that’s less revenue. Less money for players. Less money for owners. So what do you want? Everybody’s gotta make money.”
Subban also had some candid thoughts on other subjects, and here are our thoughts on those thoughts:
On Players Not Talking To The Media
“I think the media often puts players in a position like that, so the players answer that way. Some guys keep it simple for themselves. When the media burns you once, and they take it and spin it as they often do, players take a step back. They think, ‘I’m not gaining anything from giving you guys more. I’m going to give you guys the answers that everyone else gives.’”
“I’m defending the players on this. I think if the media would earn more trust from us, and gain more trust from us, in terms of how they write their stories, and no be so – quote-unquote, and I would say – ‘rats,’ in terms of how they write things up.”
Honestly, some of what Subban said here tracks back to the fact that not all NHL players are P.K. Subban. He’s a guy who expresses himself in a way where there are no gaps in logic or gray areas – he tells you what he thinks, and why he thinks it. Other NHL players aren’t quite as coherent, and sometimes they might mean one thing while their words are pointing in another direction. A reporter writes, frames it as they see it, and then the player ends up feeling burned.
Are there “rats” in the media looking to make mountains out of mounds of dirt that aren’t even molehills? Of course. But there’s more to this disconnect than nefarious journalists – there are also things lost in translation, and the fact that hockey culture murders true candor.
ON MORE TEAMS IN CANADA OR MORE IN NEW U.S. CITIES
“You could put a couple more, but if you want to grow the game, you have to be willing to experiment. Here’s the reality of the experimentation process: Who takes the blame? Who takes the heat? Who does the expense go to when it doesn’t work out? If you have a team that doesn’t have the fan base or the revenues? Who takes the hit: The owners, the players or we share it? And that’s where we have disagreements.”
God bless P.K. for not using the word “escrow” here, but that’s what we’re talking about: If new markets fail, and the players don’t have but a minimal say in where the NHL expands, should they suffer as much as the owners?
ON PLAYER SAFETY AND CONCUSSIONS
“I think it’s gotten a lot better. The NHL has done a really good job cleaning that up. As a player, I have to admit that. I’ve seen it change quickly, too. Very quickly. That’s changed in the last three or four years.”
“[Candor about concussions is] on the player. That’s not a reflection on the League, or a reflection on the training staff, that’s not a reflection on the coach. No coach, if your head is scrambled, is going to tell you to go out there and play. Because guess what? He’s gotta win. He’d rather have a player out there that’s thinking straight and healthy. He’s not going to want to put a player out there that’s hurt. Regardless of how good you are. The reality is that it’s on the player. You know when you’re hurt. You know when your bell’s been rung. You have to think about your wellbeing, and tell the truth.
“There has to be some onus on the players as well. It can’t just be on the League or on the training staff and the coaches. The player has to take some responsibility on that too.”
Obviously P.K. won’t be joining any retroactive concussion lawsuits any time soon, but good on him for explaining that if it’s “hockey culture” that has players on edge about admitting injuries, they’re the ones that are ultimately going to have to break the cycle.
And that’s as full-throated an endorsement of NHL Player Safety as we’ve read from an active player.
Listen to the whole shebang here:
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