The first time I truly got to know PK Subban beyond the clichés of the ice arena was just before the start of his second season.
It was a Sunday at a car dealership in Laval on a warm morning in September.
PK should not have been there as he had just finished a game on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
Sundays for hockey players in Montreal are for NFL football; for waking up late; for having a blast living the life of a young single man the night before; for anything but what he was doing.
Subban was helping out a charity that was associated with a ‘green’ car to help the environment, if anyone would care enough about the environment to sell enough of them to make a difference.
Well, PK wanted to make a difference that day, so there he was at 9 a.m., already there for an hour when I arrived late.
I saw they didn’t give Subban a script to work with, but just told him generally what to say.
It felt like to me that a young hockey player was pretty much on his own trying to save the charity from its own lack of preparation.
Not the perfect scenario.
PK did take after take after take after take until I basically felt sorry for him that they kept telling him to do it again.
I wanted to step in and say ‘come on surely that’s enough.’
Subban just kept smiling. He kept saying, “You need more, sure I can do more,” and he did more until he wore them out with his enthusiasm.
That morning, I learned that PK Subban wasn’t just a good hockey player; he was a man blooming towards greatness.
Through the years, the challenges in front of Subban mounted and the unfair criticism found footing.
When the Philadelphia Flyers Mike Richards was starting the twilight of his career, he felt the need to suggest that Subban was uppity and that ‘he should know his place.’
PK Subban knows what this is code for.
His parents had taught him well through the years that this isn’t about the topic at hand when you hear it.
His parents know they could have had many fights, but it’s never worth it.
Instead, they humbly chose a peaceful path.
PK Subban has learned to step down; a sad indictment on society when it happens; but a strong and some might say even courageous statement from Subban that he will not be distracted, nor let his team be distracted from the more vital path toward hockey victories.
Like every other difficult moment that Subban unfairly faces, like what Richards said, and the many more times that we don’t hear what’s said on the ice, he did what he always does…. he diffuses the situation.
He has earned success, confidence, justice
When the Habs played the Boston Bruins in the playoffs a couple seasons ago, Subban responded the way he has always.
When TD Garden fans spewed racist bile at him on Boston ice, he just played better.
When racist rants were trending on Twitter to the point that they became an international story, he just played better.
When he said about going back to Boston for game 7 ‘I can’t wait to go back in to that building and hear all that excitement from the fans and I can’t wait to take it all away from them,’ he played even better and did take that excitement away.
Here is how PK Subban acts for all of the hardest moments in his life:
As Martin Luther King said, demand to be “judged not on the colour of your skin, but the content of your character.”
The arc of Subban’s moral universe bends toward justice because he has earned it every single day.
That brings us to today: this glorious day; this day of the greatest single monetary donation by an athlete in Canadian history.
Subban donated $10 million.
Let that sink in.
Ten million dollars.
Find whatever stupid reason you can to disparage that, they all fall away as nonsensical.
The one you hear the most is it’s a tax write off, but if it is as simple as this, then why aren’t all players doing this if it’s so darn beneficial to donate $10 million?
The reason no one does it is it is not beneficial.
It’s an enormous amount of money completely out of pocket for the good of society.
If you are finding a way to not like PK Subban at this point, you need to look at your own character; what is flawed in you that you can’t like this man.
Subban didn’t just deliver $10 million today.
He delivered a tear-jerking speech of love, responsibility to his community and commitment to a greater society.
He spoke of what he wanted to give, and not what he wanted to get.
He spoke of Montreal as his home and a desire to give back to our city.
He spoke of following in the footsteps of the great and generous Jean Beliveau and he shared those words with Jean’s widow Elise.
At that point, there were crying eyes in the house.
There were standing ovations in the house.
There was love in the house.
The man steps up
He also gave much of his speech in French.
You see, the man only knows one way to do things - the man steps up.
It seems harsh to make comparisons sometimes because it puts good and fine men in a negative light and that can be unfair to those men, but Brian Gionta never spoke a word of French as captain.
Saku Koivu never broke through that French wall to receive more love than the love he already received and did deservedly so.
Yet here we do make that comparison because PK Subban didn’t just say merci and move on, he delivered large portions of his speech in French and left the atrium speechless at his accent, his diction, and his effort.
PK takes French lessons two times a week.
This takes time.
The measure of love is not in saying you love, the measure of love is the time that you take toward the showing of love and the actions of love.
Love is time and PK is taking it.
Subban is learning how to communicate with the people of this city to show them his love and his appreciation for the life that they have given him.
It’s a two-way street.
He was born to play hockey and he is a master at it, but without the fans loving his shot, his spins, his passes and his skating, this day doesn’t exist.
Montreal’s love of him is then in turn his love of Montreal.
And I know it’s just hockey, but it’s beautiful and it’s glorious and it warms my heart.
Sports doesn't make heroes...
We shy away from using the word hero to describe athletes now.
They are all too human, of course, and they should be allowed to be human.
No one should hold them to a higher standard as far as their character.
They never promised you that. They shouldn’t promise you that.
They are just good at sports.
However, in Pernell Karl Subban, we have a hero.
We have a man in full.
PK Subban is a hero today and we in the city who bask in the glow of his kindness and love are, beyond the goals and wins, truly blessed to bear witness.