The last year has proven to be a huge growth period for Montreal Canadiens' defenceman P.K. Subban. From the lockout, to the contract negotiations that kept him out of the first few weeks of the season, to a Northeast Division title and Norris Trophy. He has grown as a player both on and off the ice. While Subban is a player who attracts and thrives in the spotlight, there is a calming and steady influence in his life day in and day out that keeps him grounded. That man is his father Karl.
Teaming up with his son P.K., the Subbans are currently on tour with their Hyundai Hockey Helpers program, which provides assistance to families with the financial burdens of playing hockey. Through a grant system, the program helps with everything from enrollment to equipment. Hundreds of dealerships across Canada contribute financially, including 61 in Quebec. Last year, the program helped 1800 kids, including 339 in La Belle Province.
For Karl Subban, it's all about helping out at the grassroots level.
"Hockey is not an end; it's a means to an end. This here gives meaning. Being involved with the Hyundai Hockey Helpers program is right up our alley. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else right now" he remarked during a press conference in Montreal.
"Helping kids to develop, helping others to develop, I mean, what better way to spend our lives."
After listening to Karl speak, it's not hard to see why he has been a steady influence on all three of his boys, especially P.K. who is the first to crack the NHL. His encouragement is unwavering, but so is his support and guidance, reminding his son, that a Norris Trophy is a great honour, but there is much work to be done.
"If yesterday's achievement is as big today, then your focus is not in the right place" said Karl.
Even though his son is a star player in the NHL, he's not afraid to play the parent role every once in a while.
"He knows that he's obligated to his fans, the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL. His focus is in the right place and if it's not, Karl Subban and Maria Subban, his parents, will make sure that his focus is on the Stanley Cup and the Montreal Canadiens."
Despite his input, that doesn't mean he gets involved on the business side of things.
"PK is in good hands" "I know my role is to support him and also to discipline him if he needs disciplining" joked Karl.
There are times as well when not much needs to be said, as was the case during P.K.'s contract talks.
"I didn't have to say too much to him" said Karl.
"People don't know this, the first game that Montreal played, we were at home sitting at our dinner table on a Saturday night, and he had his head down in the table, because he missed the game so much. So I didn't have to say much, because I know how much he loves the game and he wanted to play bad."
That drive to play the game, is the passion that fuels Subban on the ice, which at times gives his game a bit of an edge that he embraces, and makes no apology for.
"Well of course I had a chip on my shoulder, it's a shortened season and I want to win the Cup. If I'm not playing with a chip on my shoulder, I'm not effective. I think playing with that chip on my shoulder has got me into trouble sometimes, but I always play with a chip on my shoulder" remarked P.K.
That style of play has also brought on its fair share of cheers, comments and at times, criticism, in which P.K. takes all in stride.
"People being critical of me doesn't bother me at all" said P.K.
"People can say whatever they want, if you look at what I've kind of gone through in the past three years playing in Montreal, I've been through the ups and downs of everything, I mean some people go through their whole careers and don't experience some of the things that not only myself, but my teammates have experienced in Montreal."
Over the years, his father has helped guide him through the rough times with some strong words of self-encouragement.
"Your potential lies inside of you, it gives you the ability to reach for something to become something. So it doesn't matter what people say around you, it's not going to change what's inside of you. There's greatness inside of you" stated Karl.
And that personal drive is what keeps Subban motivated to strive for bigger goals and not rest on his Norris Trophy.
"When I look at the past three years, I've tried to get better every season. I don't think anyone really predicted that I would have won a Norris Trophy, but I mean look at our team, look at how well we played last year. That's the best team we've had in the last three years that I've been here, so, I'm just a beneficiary of that."
Coming off the accolades from this past season, several people wonder what the next contract offer from the Canadiens and Marc Bergevin will be, yet P.K. is quick to remind people he's not at that point yet.
"I think a lot of people forget, I signed a two year deal, so I still have another year on my contract."
At just 24 years of age, P.K. Subban still has a lot of growth ahead of him, and many years to come of becoming an elite player in the NHL. His two younger brothers Malcolm and Jordan also have the long road ahead of them with NHL aspirations. Through all the stardom, ups and downs and reality of being a Montreal Canadiens player, it's good to know that Karl is still that calm, grounding and positive influence on his son.
"We see the glass as half full, the cup is never half empty. And he has so much to be thankful for. He's living his dream, he's making a lot of money, he's achieving and he's helping children. So if he focuses on the positive, the positive will outweigh the negative."