Growing up in the Toronto suburb of Rexdale, P.K. Subban always had one dream as a child. Like many Canadian kids, he wanted to play professionally in the National Hockey League. But unlike most kids from Ontario, his dream wasn’t to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but rather their longtime rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Years later, this dream would become a reality.
Prior to puck drop Thursday night, Subban brought the sold out Bell Centre crowd to their feet in an uproar of cheers and chants of “P.K., P.K., P.K.”. There were even a few tears shed as he gave an overtly emotional and heart pumping speech, his voice shaking, and included some French, a mention of Mme. Beliveau, and how happy he was to be back in Montreal.
There were even two special guests at the game, and for P.K.’s ceremony, as the defenceman brought a friend named Mila from the Montreal Children’s Hospital as well as the winningest goaltender in franchise history, Carey Price, who made an appearance to salute his old friend. The two brought the loudest ovation when he and Subban did their triple-low-five handshake.
Although P.K.’s career in Montreal wasn’t necessarily a really long time by hockey standards, seven seasons, they were marked by many monumental moments on (and off) the ice that he really will be remembered for most.
“I definitely have an awesome memory of P.K.,” explained Victoria A. of Lasalle. “Way back when the security guard let my daughter Hailie, niece Kiana and I into the parking lot to see him before the game... The security guard had tapped on his window and he rolled it down, and was told you have some fans and he rolled up the window quick pretending he didn’t want to see them which was super funny! Afterwards Kiana and Hailie got to take pictures with him. He was super nice.”
He first started with the Canadiens with two regular season games during the 2009-10 season, but burst on the scene when he was called up during the 2010 playoffs, and he helped lead the team to the Conference Finals that spring, before bowing out to the Philadelphia Flyers. He amassed a goal and nine points through 14 games.
By the fall of 2010, he was a regular, having cracked the Montreal roster, and this is where his relationship with the Canadiens organization and the community was really born.
P.K. quickly became a fan favourite in Montreal, much due for his loud personality, his flair, his fashion, and notably he also showcased his generosity too; often participating in charitable events, helping out the community. Something that he would also showcase later in a huge way.
Following the 2012-13 season, he was awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, becoming the first Canadien to win the award since Chris Chelios won in 1988-89.
Subban was a player unlike any other. He was fast, he had a heavy body to force you to pay attention as an opposing player, he had a cannon of a shot, but perhaps most notably, he had a heart of gold.
He showed the city of Montreal how much that heart was made of gold back on September 16, 2015, when his philanthropic side took on a whole other level. The then-26-year-old had pledged $10M dollars to the Montreal Children’s Hospital over the course of seven years, the single-largest donation by one person in the Montreal sports community.
Subban had stated his idol had always been the late great Mr. Jean Beliveau, who himself was a man of the people, so Subban wanted to do his part for the community and help by giving back.
On June 29, 2016, the news broke that afternoon that he had been traded one-for-one to the Nashville Predators in return for their long-tenured captain Shea Weber.
“Whether we won the trade or not is up for debate, but at the time that P.K. Subban was sent to Nashville, he was the most electrifying player we had on our team other than Alex Kovalev and Carey Price in the last 20 years,” said Michael G. of Chateauguay. “He loved this city, he loved the fans and we loved him back, he loved the organization and he loved himself. In my eyes there is nothing wrong with that. His exile from the Habs was one of the most disappointing days for me as a Montreal Canadiens fan.”
P.K. would go on to play the next three seasons in Nashville, creating a new image for himself, but never distancing himself from his Montreal roots and his allegiances including the hospital.
On March 2, 2017, P.K. returned to the Bell Centre for the first time as a visitor, and through the entire pre-game, including the anthems, the crowd gave him a standing ovation as the fans kept chanting “P.K, P.K, P.K...” yet again. The chants, cheers, and pre-game video moved Subban to tears. Montreal won the game 2-1, but he did record on assist on the lone Nashville goal, which sent the crowd into a frenzy, despite being the visiting team’s goal.
After P.K.’s stint in Nashville, he was traded once again to the New Jersey Devils, where he would play the last three seasons of his NHL career. After becoming a free agent at the end of last season, he formally announced his retirement on September 20, 2022.
In only seven years with the bleu-blanc-rouge, Subban has instilled a legacy in the city, and with the franchise, something that will never be forgotten. Still heavily involved with the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
He may not get his 76 hung in the rafters to join the elite, but being able to come back to the city that gave him so much and he gave so much back in return, made for a truly memorable night at the rink.