P.K. Subban’s ‘high legacy’ lives on as retired Canadiens star returns to Montreal

Click to play video: 'P.K. Subban leaves lasting legacy in Montreal'
P.K. Subban leaves lasting legacy in Montreal
WATCH: Former Habs player P.K. Subban is known among hockey fans for his incredible achievements on the ice. Off the ice, the former defenceman made a name for himself with his dedication and contributions to improving health care for children. Global's Tim Sargeant reports on the legacy he leaves in Montreal – Jan 12, 2023

After an illustrious career, P.K. Subban will be honoured on the same ice where he made himself a household name in Montreal and among Canadiens fans everywhere.

The now-retired defenceman is known for his dedication not only to hockey, the storied club and its fans, but also to the city and its people as a whole.

Global Montreal hockey analyst Brian Wilde weighed in on Subban’s return to his beloved Montreal for a tribute at the Bell Centre ahead of Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators. The hockey star announced last year he would be retiring after 13 NHL seasons with the Canadiens, Predators and New Jersey Devils.

The 33-year-old’s legacy is a mix of being a gifted, exciting and dramatic player, according to Wilde. Subban not only came through for his team, but always gave great interviews.

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Read more: Former NHL defenceman P.K. Subban set for emotional return to Montreal

“He always came through in the clutch. I’m remembering Boston Bruins games where he said that famous quote, ‘I can’t wait to get to Boston and listen to all those fans and how excited they are and then take that away from them.’ That was my favourite quote,” Wilde said.

“So when you look at that on-ice performance, you have a very high legacy there.”

Subban’s legacy extends beyond the Bell Centre, too.

Aside from his quips and enormous talent, he is also known for his ongoing charity work in the city. In 2015, he pledged to raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital and his fundraising efforts continued in the years after he was traded.

“So that was an obviously giant gesture, which said a lot (about what) this legacy was going to be,” Wilde said.

There was a lot of fanfare around the gesture, but Wilde says the hockey player spent his free time at the hospital and with young patients when he had a day off. Subban’s frequent visits were often under the radar and away from cameras.

“He would just go because his heart demanded it of him and the kids would be to the moon with excitement.”

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During his time on the ice, Subban was a talented Black hockey player in a very white sport. Wilde notes that “we can never understand what it’s like for someone of a different colour than us because we live in a very privileged world as white people.

“And he always had to face that initially before, you know, people got a little bit more understanding of what it was all about because there was no one else like him even in that way,” Wilde said. “And so we live in a community that’s a little unusual sometimes, right?

“And maybe sometimes we get it in terms of French versus English in our own community, whether you feel like a minority or majority. So P.K. kind of fought that in the beginning, before he was accepted by more and more people, but not everyone, because everyone is not so perfect in that way.”

Click to play video: 'P.K. Subban moved to tears during tribute in return to Montreal'
P.K. Subban moved to tears during tribute in return to Montreal

‘Above all, he’s a good human’

The Habs’ decision to trade Subban sent shockwaves through the city in 2016.

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After he was drafted in 2007, fans watched as Subban rose to stardom. He won a Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman in 2013 and helped the Canadiens become a contender in the league’s Eastern Conference.

“There is also a little bit of a downside to that legacy, too, in terms of the trade and how management spoke of him when he left, which was pretty sad,” Wilde said.

But when Subban came back for the first time to play against his old team the following year, tears streaked his cheeks as he received a standing ovation at the Bell Centre. There were chants of “P.K., P.K.” from the crowd, many donning their old 76 jerseys bearing his name.

He would go on to play with the Predators and Devils before he hung up his skates. Even as Subban announced his retirement from professional hockey in late 2022, Wilde said it wasn’t a shock that the talented player quickly joined the ESPN team as a hockey analyst.

“Nobody was surprised by that,” he said.

Read more: Recently retired P.K. Subban joining ESPN as hockey analyst

When asked if he could describe Subban in one word, it came down to his character.

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“P.K. is a good human, he is a talented human,” Wilde said. “Above all, he’s a good human, and anybody that doesn’t think it doesn’t know him.”

with files from Global’s Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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