Retired, six years after the transaction that catapulted him from Montreal to finally land in Nashville, PK Subban still arouses passions.
The passions of the fans who adore him, who revere him, who ate greedily and who still miss today his spectacular pushes, his hard-hitting slapshots and his way of attracting attention .
Without forgetting the passions of others: of those who have always reproached him for being precisely too spectacular, for precisely taking up too much space, for precisely attracting all the attention, for having his name and number embroidered on his back before the embroidered logo on the front of his sweater.
Thursday, when PK stormed the Bell Center rink for perhaps one last time, when Subban showed up with little Mila, a patient at the Montreal Children’s Hospital to whom PK and his foundation remained partners after the transaction that drove him out of the Canadian’s locker room, this “warfight” seemed quite futile.
It was time for tributes and celebration of PK’s career, of the life of Pernell Karl Subban, a perfect hockey player in his imperfections.
And you know what?
The reactions associated with his return, the excitement that sparkled around the Bell Center three hours before the game and the ovation he received when he arrived on the ice, the others received during his speech and the last, even more sustained, who followed his “thank you for the good life, I love you Montreal”, proved it by… 76 that this tribute was deserved. How justified he was!
This tribute which ended in a grand way when Carey Price, all dressed in black, came to join him on the ice and with whom he exchanged the “Triple Low Five” with which they haloed the victories of the Habs before the management prohibit this way of celebrating, set the tone for a 4-3 victory for the Canadiens at the expense of the Nashville Predators.
A victory that crowned the Habs’ best game in a long time. One of the best of the season.
A match that the Canadian started with a passion that was sorely lacking for a long time. A passion which, yes, characterized the guest of honor of the evening.
This part launched to the rhythm of PK! PK! PK! chanted by the crowd ended with Olé! Ole! Ole! that Subban often inspired fans to sing with his unique way of playing.
“PK has done its job”, has also launched a Martin St-Louis visibly very satisfied with the boost attributable to the ceremony.
Perfect in front of the crowd, authentic in front of the journalists
Subban was perfect in his way of addressing the crowd before the game. He was just as much in the passageways of the Bell Center where he met supporters, signed autographs here, took photos there. He warmly greeted all those who were part of his daily life as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
He was also in front of the journalists he met during the first intermission.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many microphones and cameras,” Subban said, proudly glancing at the reporters literally surrounding him, so many of us were waiting for him.
In a press briefing during which he showed great authenticity, Subban spoke about him, the Canadian, his teammates and especially the fans.
“I didn’t expect to receive such a warm welcome after so many years. For reasons I don’t understand, it seems like this union between me and the fans has continued to grow over the years. You can’t prepare to experience emotions like the ones I experienced tonight. This shows a great mutual respect,” said Subban first.
PK then made sure to praise the passion the fans showed for their team.
“The message I would deliver to all the players of the Canadiens is: deploy the same passion on the ice with each of your presence as the passion displayed by the supporters in the bleachers. Montreal fans appreciate everything you do. They notice all the little things. They reward those who put in the effort. Those who give of themselves for the successes of the team. For them. Any athlete, not just hockey players, should want to play for fans like those of the Canadiens,” he added.
Supporters who are not spoiled again this year.
“It is precisely because they are fully absorbing the repercussions of the difficult years that the fans climb the posts to celebrate the victories and the successes in the series.”
Different, yes, polarizing no!
It was when it came to his personality, being a polarizing player and athlete that Subban was most genuine in his responses. At least that’s the impression he gave me.
“I have often been called a polarizing person, a lightning rod, but I have never lost sleep with these descriptions of me. I know I’m not a polarizing person. Yes, I always liked the attention, but I always gave everything in my way of playing to justify this attention. I was different in my way of being, but it attracted attention because I played hockey. In baseball, football, basketball, I would never have aroused so many reactions. I haven’t always been perfect, that’s clear, but everything I’ve done, I’ve done with respect, respecting the values my parents instilled in me,” Subban pleaded.
Tribute to Andrei Markov
Twenty-two defenders have played more games in a Canadiens uniform than PK Subban, who ranks 77th in Habs history with 434 games. And there have been some very good ones. Even excellent ones. Some have given more to the Canadian and his supporters than Subban. But Subban will have marked the history more than many of the 22 defenders.
Starting with Andrei Markov, who was 10 games away from reaching the 1,000 mark with the Habs when he decided to pack his bags and return to his native Russia because the Canadiens’ staff refused to give him the contract he considered he deserved.
Is it good? Is it wrong? Is it his fault?
It’s just like that.
Charisma is a gift that falls from the sky. And when, 34 years ago, a big cloud overflowing with charisma decided to empty itself, PK Subban was right under it.
That said, PK Subban wanted to pay tribute to his former partner on the blue line of the Canadian. A partner who should also be in Montreal since initially, Thursday’s ceremony aimed to honor Subban and Andrei Markov.
“I owe a lot to ‘Markie’. He made me a better hockey player. I owe him a lot and in my eyes he deserves to have his jersey hoisted to the ceiling of the Bell Center with those of the other greats in the history of the Canadian. Like me, “Markie” was a different guy. In the beginning, everything kept us away. We didn’t speak the same language, I liked the attention, he was the opposite. We had completely opposite cultures. But we are slowly closer, I tried to learn a few words in Russian. He liked that. We developed a relationship that allowed us to perform on the ice. I really wish he was here tonight,” Subban paraded.
And retirement? Any regrets for taking her so young when he could still be rocked by the love of his followers?
“No regrets. I played hard all my career. I gave everything. I still train as much as I did when I was a player, but my body isn’t as bruised. I can enjoy life. I also want to take advantage of this life and the work I do – he is now a commentator on the American network ESPN – to shed light on the new stars of hockey. On the Cole Caufields, the Nick Suzukis.”
The “Triple Low Five” exchanged with Carey Price, was it a planned move, just to put him back in the face of the general staff who had banned him?
“The first time we did it was totally improvised. For tonight, I’ll let you guess…”