When veteran defenceman P.K. Subban announced his retirement from the NHL last fall, it was one of those stories that took the league by storm.
Announcing the news in a shocking tweet just past 9 am Eastern time on a Friday morning, it seemed unfathomable that one of the league’s most recognizable players would be hanging up the skates at age 33.
But with no offers to sign a contract with a contending team like he was searching for, Subban decided to figure out what’s next in his post-NHL life.
While he’s a regular on ESPN’s NHL panel after signing a multi-year contract with the network this fall, Subban is still searching for what exactly his next big thing will be.
“I can now take my time and figure out exactly what suits me. I mean, I can set as many goals as I want, but those goals may change,” Subban said in an interview with Daily Hive.
Subban floated the idea of potentially getting into NHL ownership one day, though he doesn’t necessarily have a clear idea in mind exactly where or when that will be.
“What I love is just to have that freedom to do what I like. It’s got to be the right fit and the right situation where I can, have the impact that I want to have,” Subban added.
Returning to Montreal earlier this month as a “homecoming game” to honour his contributions to the Canadiens, Subban said the “most special moment” of it was reuniting with longtime teammate Carey Price.
“I knew that he was going to come. I reached out to him when I knew that I was going to get honoured that night. And he said he wouldn’t miss it for the world. We had sort of created a situation where we would be able to embrace each other. And that was really important for me, because I know it was important for him too, it was a difficult time,” Subban said.
Price and Subban capped off the celebration with their signature triple low five on the Bell Centre ice one more time.
LE TRIPLE LOW FIVE!#GoHabsGo | @CP0031 | @PKSubban1 pic.twitter.com/ssEMRFWdzJ
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 13, 2023
“It just brought me back thirteen years, when I first started with the Canadiens, that was such a fun, great time for Carey and I,” Subban said. “So to be able to share that moment with him in front of the whole world was pretty awesome.”
Throughout his career, it wasn’t uncommon to see a debate about Subban’s playstyle pop up on Hockey Night in Canada, in a local newspaper, or even amongst the meetings rooms on the teams that he was playing on.
“I had more people that I played for that wanted to change my game and how I played [than respected it],” Subban said.
But Subban had a pretty simple solution to all the internal and external criticism: show up when it really mattered come playoff time.
“It’s one of those things that what I loved about the game of hockey, while playing in the NHL, is that when the playoffs came, you could almost think that the coaching was almost done… it was up to the players, you just played 82 games, you know how to play. I always kind of just let everything go and just did what I need to do to get the job done in the playoffs,” he said.
Two particular playoff runs stand out: an Eastern Conference trip with the Montreal Canadiens in 2014 and a 2017 Stanley Cup final appearance with Nashville, the first year he played with the Predators. In total, Subban had 18 goals, 44 assists in 96 games in the playoffs over the course of his NHL career.
But for Subban, whether it was the preseason or the postseason, he was simply playing hockey the way he always had.
“When people would always talk about my game, and the way I played the game I played that same game at Nathan Phillips Square on the outdoor rink, in downtown Toronto, I played that same game at Sunnylea in the outdoor rink in Etobicoke,” he said. “That’s how I learned how to play the game was playing shinny. And it was just reading, reacting, it was being in the moment, it was not thinking about anything other than the game, and I played off of instinct.”
Subban’s latest endevaour is part of a way to revisit those childhood memories, as he’s teamed up with the Kraft Hockeyville program as a way to make hockey more accessible and inclusive for all.
Canadian cities and towns interested in hosting an NHL® preseason game and receiving $250,000 towards arena upgrades are eligible to enter this year’s contest, running for the next three weeks.
“This is the country that I was raised in, my parents came to for opportunity,” Subban said. “All of us learned how to skate at a very early age. And there were no programs like this growing up. Obviously, I love to give back. It’s an important part of who I am, my brand that [I’ve built] over the body of my career. I’ve done so much philanthropic work, but I only do things that are authentic to me and resonate with me in authentic way.”
Entries are due at KraftHockeyville.ca before February 19 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
“I really see this program as a catalyst and helping getting people involved in the game. And when you’re able to attach a cheque that can actually change the outlook of arena that can impact the community and bringing people into our game, it’s just a no-brainer for me,” he added. “I remember being a child playing minor hockey in Toronto. A lot of the [negative things] that were going on in the sport stemmed from the parents, coaches, and the people, the adults. And I think that the responsibility needs to be on them to continue to make sure that the environment is an environment that everybody feels accepted. And everybody can come into our game and feel like they belong.”
One moment in particular stood out to Subban, when he was approached by a child and his mother who called an “inspiration” after winning the World Juniors gold medal in 2008.
“He wasn’t Black, he was Indian,” Subban said. “It was a different moment for me. I was used to having people come up to me and be like, Oh, you’re such a great hockey player, you know, but to hear someone say that you were an inspiration, that allowed me to see the impact that you could have on somebody’s life. [That moment] kind of pushed me to want to have a bigger impact on the sport,” Subban said.