All-Star Rewind: The story behind P.K. Subban’s 2016 Jagr impression

Watch as P.K. Subban does his best Jaromir Jagr impression by using a 90’s flow, JOFA helmet and classic crowd salute.

While the All-Star Game’s always fodder for a fair bit of grumbling among NHL fans, there’s one thing the weekend’s festivities seem to always be good for: memorable displays of personality from the game’s usually-guarded stars.

The skills competition, in particular, tends to draw it out, gathering the big leagues’ marquee names around the ice for the type of jovial one-upmanship they used to revel in post-shinny at the outdoor rink during their younger days. Chirps are traded, dangles get progressively cheekier, and every once in a while one of the game’s more outgoing stars brings down the house with some pure absurdity (Exhibit A).

Back in 2016, at the All-Star Game in Nashville, it was then-Montreal Canadien P.K. Subban (later a Nashville Predator, more recently a New Jersey Devil) who added some unforgettable levity to the night.

The Breakaway Challenge was the site of Subban’s tomfoolery. Given it reigns among the silliest moments in all-star lore, you may recall the moment — with Subban on the clock to take his breakaway spin, the blue-liner let the crowd wait for a moment before taking the ice in full Jaromir Jagr garb, as if hoping to channel the veteran’s legendary ability.

And it was a wild sight to see — the locks of his wig spilling down the back of a No. 68 Panthers jersey, tucked under that old-school Jofa helmet, all topped off with the vintage full-length referee-style pants. A visual mess, no doubt. And a clear hit with the all-star fans, who ate it up and voted Subban the 2016 breakaway king.

NHL gear guru Marco Argentino remembers the moment a little differently, recalling with a chuckle the chaos behind the scenes while helping to pull the last-minute look together.

Argentino — who’s made his name as CCM’s headgear customizer, working closely with marquee NHLers like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid — has long been a staple at NHL All-Star Games, his knack for handling any equipment issues that arise in a pinch making him an indispensable resource behind the scenes.

With Subban having recently moved his camp to CCM ahead of that 2016 weekend, Argentino and the former Norris Trophy winner had spent some time together back at the company’s headquarters in Montreal. By the time the next All-Star game rolled around, they were certified chums — chummy enough, at least, for Subban to come to Argentino with a last-minute plan to honour an in-house legend.

“I was just doing my normal work and flamboyant P.K. comes in — it’s Friday evening, and they’re doing their skills show-off, talent show that was going on (later that night),” Argentino recalls. “He goes, ‘Oh, Marco! How are you? Could you help me?’ I say, ‘Sure, what’s going on?’ And he says, ‘I’m doing something for tonight — I’m going to be disguising myself like Jagr. But the only wig that I was able to get was a blonde wig. It has to be black.’”

A glance at the clock gives Argentino about an hour and a half to pull the outfit together out of thin air before Subban is to take the ice.

“Then he goes, ‘Oh yeah, can you find me a Jofa helmet?’ I’m like, ‘Buddy, if you would’ve called me before I left, I have a shelf of helmets here (in Montreal), I would’ve gladly brought one with me!’” says Argentino with a laugh.

But as he does, Argentino made it happen.

The first step was seeking out Predators equipment manager Pete Rogers to help scrounge up the vintage gear.

“Marco comes running down in a panic and he says to me, ‘P.K. wants to dress up like Jagr, like when Jagr played for Pittsburgh back in the early ‘90s. What do you have that we can make this thing work?’” Rogers recalls.

First task? Locating the old-school bucket — ’90s-era Jofas weren’t exactly a must-have for equipment rooms around the league. Luckily, someone in the building still had one. “My GM had a Jofa helmet up in his office like Jagr used to use when he played.” Argentino borrowed GM David Poile’s prized Jofa, screwed on a visor, and moved down the list.

Next up: “Back then, Jagr wore that one-piece-shell leg-pant that pulled over the girdle,” Argentino says, “So we had to run around and find the long-shell pants.” They managed to track down a pair in the bowels of Bridgestone Arena.

The Panthers jersey was easy enough to locate, leaving only the matter of the inconveniently blonde wig. “I go to Pete, I say ‘You got a couple of cans of black paint?’” says Argentino.

Unfortunately for those who had to deal with the subsequent smell in the arena’s back rooms, he did.

“Marco took the wig, went over to my supply room and emptied a can of spray-paint on it,” says Rogers. “It took about six months to get all of that paint smell out of that room.”

Jaromir Jagr and P.K. Subban share a laugh about the latter’s impression of the former at the 2016 All-Star Game. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

With all the elements of the look borrowed, dug up, tweaked and sufficiently doused in spray-paint, Subban was ready to roll with a half-hour to spare.

“So P.K. gets on his jersey, he gets the pants, he gets the wig on his head, gets the helmet — as soon as he stepped on the ice, everybody just roared,” Argentino recalls.

For the fans in the stands and those watching at home, it was just a memorable moment of silliness, a viral clip to bring some chuckles to the All-Star weekend. But for Argentino, it was a chance to share a lasting memory with one of the game’s best, to add another strand to the bond he and all others working tirelessly behind the scenes share with the players out in the spotlight.

“It was this big, big thing, [but] it was just a wonderful moment to be able to interact,” Argentino says.

And a reminder of how devoted said behind-the-scenes folks are to the players they work with, no matter how wild the request.

“We ran upstairs and got a helmet, we found a wig, but Marco put it all together and made it work,” Rogers says. “Because that’s what he does for his players.”

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