P.K. Subban

Pernell-Karl Sylvester Subban, MSC, hockey player (born 13 May 1989 in Toronto, ON). P.K. Subban is one of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) elite defencemen. After leading the Belleville Bulls to the Memorial Cup in 2008 and winning the American Hockey League’s President’s Award in 2010, he became a fan favourite with the Montreal Canadiens. A three-time All-Star, he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman in 2013 and has played with the Nashville Predators since 2016. Subban won gold medals with Team Canada at the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships and the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. He is also well known for his generous charity work and philanthropy.

P.K. Subban

Family Background

P.K. Subban’s parents are both of Caribbean heritage and moved to Ontario in 1970. P.K.’s father, Karl, grew up in Jamaica wanting to play high-level cricket. After moving to Sudbury, Ontario, at the age of 11, he became fascinated with hockey, particularly the Montreal Canadiens and their goaltender, Ken Dryden. Karl Subban earned a Bachelor of Education degree from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, where he played basketball and was the fifth-leading scorer in the university’s history. From 1985 to 2013, he worked as a principal in the Toronto District School Board. According to Matthew Hague of Toronto Life magazine, he was known as “a strict disciplinarian,” though the Montreal Gazette also noted his “big laugh and warm smile.”

P.K.’s mother, Maria (neé Brand), moved to Hamilton from the British overseas territory of Montserrat. A track and field athlete, she won a gold medal in the women’s 4 x 100 m relay at the Ontario provincial championships. She worked as a quality control analyst for CIBC Mellon.

P.K. Subban is the third of five children. His older sisters, Nastassia and Natasha, are teachers in Toronto. Nastassia also excelled in basketball and is ranked second all-time in scoring at York University. P.K.’s younger brothers, Malcolm and Jordan, have both become professional hockey players. Malcolm, a goaltender, was selected by the Boston Bruins 24th overall in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He began playing for the Vegas Golden Knights in the team’s inaugural season (2017–18). Jordan is a defenseman who was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the fourth round, 115th overall, of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. As of the 2018–19 season, he was playing in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ minor league system.

Childhood

P.K. Subban started skating at an early age. His grandparents bought him a pair of skates at the Salvation Army when he was two years old so he could make friends. Karl also built a skating rink in the family backyard every winter. Growing up in Toronto, Subban was good friends with future NHL star John Tavares. (Subban’s father and Tavares’s uncle had been friends since their youth in Sudbury.)


Minor Hockey

Subban started playing organized hockey at age three. In 1993, at age four, he was an all-star for the Etobicoke Bulldogs. At age five, he played on an all-star team of six-year-olds and scored 19 of the team’s 21 goals. The following season, he played with eight-year-olds. He went on to play minor hockey in Ontario with the North York Jr. Canadiens, the Mississauga Reps, the North York Rangers Bantam AAA and the Markham Islanders Minor Midget AAA.   

Two of Subban’s minor hockey accomplishments were winning the 1997 Carnation Cup with the North York Jr. Canadiens (awarded to the team with the best Greater Toronto Hockey League regular season record) and the 1999 Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament with Toronto Pro Hockey at the West Edmonton Mall.

During a tournament in Edmonton in 1999, Subban was named most valuable player and a first-team all-star. Future NHL players Kyle Turris, Luke Schenn and Jimmy Hayes were also tournament first team all-stars that year.

P.K. Subban played his final season in the Greater Toronto Hockey League with the Midget AAA Markham Islanders in 2004–05. In 67 games, Subban had 15 goals and 28 assists for 43 points. He also contributed a physical presence with 179 penalty minutes.

While growing up playing hockey in Ontario, Subban faced continual racism and was once told by a coach that he would never succeed in hockey. Upon hearing this, Karl Subban told his son, “There are three senses you need to understand to make it into hockey: hockey sense, common sense and nonsense. You use your hockey sense on the ice, you use your common sense off the ice, and you have to know what to do with the nonsense because a lot of it is nonsense.”


Junior Hockey

In 2005, Subban was selected in the sixth round, 105th overall, by the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League Draft. After his first OHL season, in which he had only 12 points in 52 games, Subban had 56 points in 68 games in 2006–07. The following season, 2007-08, Subban helped the Bulls reach the Memorial Cup with 23 playoff points in 21 games. Then, in 2008–09, Subban captained Belleville and had 14 goals and 62 assists for 76 points in 56 regular season games.

Throughout his junior career, one of Subban’s most recognizable traits was his self-confidence. When the Montreal Canadiens selected him in the second round, 43rd overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Subban told those at the Canadiens draft table, “You guys made the right choice.”

Career with Team Canada

Throughout his career, Subban has won three gold medals for Canada at three international hockey events: the 2008 World Junior Hockey Championship in Pardubice, Czech Republic; the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa, Ontario; and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

At the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship, Subban was an assistant captain for Team Canada. He had three goals and six assists for nine points, led the tournament with a plus/minus of +12 and was a tournament all-star. The fact that Subban led the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship in plus/minus was significant. When he was drafted in 2007, Subban’s offensive skills were highly praised, but there were concerns about his defensive play. Subban’s performance in Ottawa helped silence the critics.

P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban being interviewed at the 2010 AHL All-Star Game in Portland, Maine.

(courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Career with Montreal Canadiens

In his first professional hockey season of 2009–10, Subban played mostly with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League. He represented the Bulldogs at the 2010 AHL All-Star Game and won the President’s Award for his outstanding contributions on and off the ice.

Also in 2009–10, Subban played two regular season games for the Canadiens against the Philadelphia Flyers and had two assists. Subban scored his first NHL goal on 30 April 2010 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Subban played his first full NHL season in 2010–11 and notched 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points. On 20 March 2011, he became the first Canadiens rookie defenseman ever to score three goals in a game. That season, Subban was named to the NHL’s all-rookie team.

After scoring 36 points in 81 games with the Canadiens in 2011–12, Subban won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. In the lockout-shortened 2012–13 season, Subban almost averaged a point per game, scoring 38 points in 42 games. He was also named to the NHL’s first all-star team.

In 2013–14, Subban had 53 points in the regular season and helped the Canadiens reach the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the New York Rangers. In the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led all players with four power play goals.

After he scored 53 points in 2013–14, Subban had arguably his most memorable season as an NHL player in 2014–15. He set career highs in points (60), plus/minus (+21), game-winning goals (five) and blocked shots (142). Subban was named to the NHL’s first all-star team once again.

In 2015–16, Subban played in his first of three consecutive NHL All-Star Games. However, after scoring only six goals that season, he was traded to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shea Weber on 29 June 2016.

P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban playing with the Montreal Canadiens in Washington, DC, on 1 February 2011.

(courtesy flickr)

Career with Nashville Predators

In his first three seasons with the Predators, Subban had 130 points in 211 games. He helped the Predators reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals, where Nashville lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. In 2017–18, Subban had a career-high 16 goals.

Playing Style

Some of the qualities that have made Subban special over the years have been the power of his slap shot and ability to get by the opposition. According to Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated, Subban is “agile on his blades (and)… often removes one hand from his stick while puck-handling and uses the other hand to fend off checkers.” Subban is also known for his “unorthodox” bodychecking. He delivers many hits while skating backward and often makes contact with his back against his opponent’s chest.

Philanthropy

P.K. Subban is known for making generous financial contributions. In 2011, he and former NHL player Georges Laraque visited Haiti after the country suffered a catastrophic earthquake. They represented “Hockey for Haiti,” a program that raised $1.3 million to build a temporary hospital across the street from a hospital that was destroyed.

On 16 September 2015, it was announced that the Montreal Children’s Hospital would name its atrium after Subban, who pledged $10 million over seven years to the hospital through his foundation. The money from the foundation goes to a fund called P.K.’s Helping Hand, which raises revenue for families struggling financially because their child needs medical care. According to the CBC, Subban’s donation was “the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.” In 2016, Subban received the Meritorious Service Cross from Governor General David Johnston for serving “as an example of how professional athletes can positively change lives in their communities.”

Every Christmas, the P.K. Subban Foundation has teamed up with the Air Canada Foundation to build a “Winter Wonderland” for the children in the Montreal Children’s Hospital atrium. Subban also supports the Hats off to Kidz Foundation, which aims to make a positive difference in the lives of sick children.

While in Nashville, Subban has helped set up P.K.’s Blue Line Buddies Program. Throughout the Predators’ regular season, Subban purchases tickets to each home game for a member of the Metro Nashville Police Department, a mentor of a local organization and an underprivileged youth. Subban also buys them dinner and meets his guests after the game. Also at Christmas time, Subban has created “Subban Sleigh” day, on which he takes children suffering from sickle cell disease on a sleigh ride throughout Nashville and then throws a party and shopping spree for them at the Predators store inside Bridgestone Arena.

Subban has also connected with children who have experienced racism. Subban reached out to a 13-year-old Michigan boy upon hearing he was the subject of racist taunts while playing hockey. He connected with the child through a video text message and presented him with NHL All-Star Game tickets.

Awards