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Canadiens Players Explain P.K. Subban’s Impact On The NHL



Canadiens Subban

There are only three players on the current Montreal Canadiens roster that were active during P.K. Subban’s tenure in Montreal.

Unfortunately, Carey Price, Paul Byron, and Brendan Gallagher, who are all presently on the injured reserve, were not available to comment on Subban’s legacy with the Canadiens on Thursday morning.

But it did allow the younger players to discuss the impact made by Subban while playing for the Canadiens.

Subban was one of the first players in the NHL to focus on branding, and though most other sports embraced the concept of athletes improving their overall marketing value, hockey was slow to adapt to the reality of the current sports landscape.

Fans want to see personality.

They want to relate to the players and gravitate toward those who fulfil their duties as entertainers.

Those players were few and far between during Subban’s career, but there’s been a steady trickle of exciting skaters that have entered the league in recent years.

Players such as Trevor Zegras or Cole Caufield.

“It was not really the norm to have a big personality,” said Jonathan Kovacevic. “It’s not the norm in hockey, but it does a lot for young fans, for growing the game. He did a great job with that. And he continues to do a good job in the media, right now.

“It wasn’t easy, but because it was his personality, he was just being himself. That’s why people were drawn to him. He’s just genuine.”

Subban, who played with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2009-10, also made an impact on Arber Xhekaj, a Hamilton native.

“I watched him in Hamilton, it was a school-day game, I was in the crowd with a big poster watching Subban,” said Xhekaj, “He’s a great player, and obviously won the defenceman of the year trophy. I really liked his game. He’s a flashy guy and has a lot of swagger to his game. Obviously, he was huge for hockey.”

There it is again.

Another current NHL player recognized Subban’s influence on the game itself, and acknowledged something that many refused to accept at the time.

Subban was great for hockey, the NHL, and the Montreal Canadiens.

He was well ahead of his time, which led to many unfair statements by fans and players around the league, but Subban always managed to navigate the contrived criticism with the type of maturity those who spoke loudest about his personal decisions lacked.

“A lot of guys looked up to him,” said Xhekaj, “They liked the flashy, skilled defenceman with a big shot from the point. I was definitely watching him a lot. He’s got a good fashion sense as well.

“I don’t think too many defencemen in that era that were trying the things he was doing. Making the plays he was doing, the spinoramas, the one hand on the stick. He was huge for the NHL.”

Veteran David Savard played against Subban on several occasions, giving him a little more insight than some of his younger teammates.

He was quick to point to the value of allowing personalities to shine, particularly in a sport that tends to favour a more robotic, lifeless approach.

“He was a one-of-a-kind guy, and he wasn’t afraid to show it,” said St-Louis. “That was also big for our game. It allows us to show who we are. He was someone who had a flamboyant personality, and it was good for the organization and the game. He’s someone who brought attention to the league, and it showed people that players have a personality.”

He was an excellent player as well. It’s fun to see him brought back into the fold in Montreal. He brought a lot to hockey.”

As was the case with Xhekaj and Kovacevic, Savard was quick to point to Subban’s trailblazing attitude, as well as the positive influence he had throughout the NHL.

“We see it in other sports, personalities are more evident,” said Savard. “Hockey is more conservative. Subban was someone who broke the mould and allowed other players to open up and show their true selves. It’s fun to see that Subban had a hand in changing that.”

Head coach Martin St-Louis spent some time alongside Subban at the 2014 Olympics, an event that allowed him to appreciate the joie de vivre that seemed to follow the 2012-13 Norris Trophy winner everywhere he went

“PK brought life to the ice,” St-Louis. “He has a presence. P.K. didn’t whisper, and that’s fine. He’s not afraid to express himself. It’s a quality. He did a lot of good things in Montreal, both on and off the ice.”

Regardless of the generation, it’s quite clear that Subban’s legacy extends beyond Montreal.

His presence in the league was the main conduit that allowed younger players to be true to themselves, which in turn led to a much better product on the ice and happier fans in the stands.