The hockey world is blessed to have someone like Pernell-Karl Sylvester Subban in its mix. Let’s just keep it simple, and call him the way he prefers to be referred to: PK.
Before I get into why this story gives me such an emotional response, I should give you a background of myself:
To my friends, and those who know me personally, I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. There is absolutely no hiding it. It’s even mentioned in my writer’s profile page. However; to those who first meet me and do not immediately see that I’m a Penguins fan, they see first and foremost my passion about hockey.
And taking idiot tourist pictures. But mostly hockey.
If you’ve looked at the above-noted link, you’ll also notice I’m an immigrant. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and grew up in a city about 2 hours west of Caracas called Maracay, hometown of some people you may have heard of: Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu… Their shared profession? Baseball players.
That’s right, where I’m from, baseball is king. In an ever-increasingly desperate Venezuela, baseball is literally the way out of poverty for some. So, how does an immigrant from a tropical climate come to love a game that is played in freezing conditions?
I was blessed to have my uncle introduce me to hockey, as my family had lived in Canada for some time prior to my birth. I was introduced to the game thanks to Electronic Arts’ NHL 99, where the concept of having 3 periods in a game first fascinated me (between soccer’s two halves, and baseball’s nine innings, the concept was certainly foreign to me); then the fact that they fought right in the middle of the game seemingly at will? I was hooked, and this “penalty” would last way longer than two minutes.
As a result of the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, my family decided to leave our homeland, and come to Canada. Long story short, the increased exposure to hockey eventually ignited a passion that still burns bright to this day.
For the longest time, I dreamed of zooming up and down the ice and playing hockey. Considering that it is a tropical country, Venezuela does not have ice skating rinks, so my expertise in the subject remained negligible. Even the mechanics of stick handling eluded me, but I still tried because I love the game.
I participated in a local ball hockey league to try to improve my skills, to disastrous results (to tell you the truth, I was a glorified walking pylon. I’m not ashamed to admit it). Yet I kept trying. Throughout the time when I would play hockey, I recall my very supportive mother telling me that “Latinos have no place in hockey. You should be playing soccer or baseball, where you won’t get hurt” (in her defense, she did have a bit of a point. I stand at 5’5” and weigh about 180 lbs. Hardly hockey material).
I’m still terrible at hockey. On the plus side, I can skate, provided you don’t need me to stop or change directions very quickly; however, my love for the sport has never faded. Being a glorified pylon, I have heard my fair share of chirps – a natural part of the game, and admittedly, some of them very cleverly crafted and well-earned; however, being of a different heritage, I have also heard some rather questionable and some downright terrible things aimed at me.
PK Subban’s message is a beautiful reminder that hockey belongs to anyone who loves the game, regardless of background, heritage, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, preference, etc. I wholly sympathize with PK and the kid he sent the message to because I have been where they’ve been, and PK’s message is absolutely on point.
Reaching out to the kid is just another in a long line of reasons why the hockey world needs way more PK Subban and players like him. PK, if for some reason you’re reading this, and you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods, you have yourself both a perpetual fan, and an okay beer on me. I look forward to possibly take idiot tourist pictures like the one above with you.